KnoWhere To Go report – young people in Ireland and sexual health misinformation

To mark International Day of the Girl 2021, we are launching our 'KnoWhere To Go' Report, detailing the sexual and reproductive health misinformation which young people in Ireland are navigating.

Our Youth Advisory Panel surveyed over 500 young people on their experiences of sexual and reproductive health misinformation in Ireland. This is what they found.

85% of over 500 young people aged between 15-24 have said they have been exposed to sexual and reproductive health misinformation, with the main sources of misinformation coming from school and the internet.

Additional comments/qualitative findings from the survey indicated that it is not just perceived misinformation, but a lack of information on sexual and reproductive health in school, that is having a negative impact on young people, especially in relation to consent, contraception and LGBTI+ identities.

While young people are looking predominantly to the online space for information on sexual and reproductive health, they are also conscious that it can be a minefield of misinformation.

Only 16% of young people surveyed said they learned most of their information on consent in schools, compared to 66% who indicated social media or the internet.

Both misinformation and a knowledge gap in sexual & reproductive health education is putting young people at risk, especially girls and young women.

Misinformation and a lack of information on sexual health is having negative effect on young people in Ireland. This is especially true for girls and young women, who are at increased risk of STIs, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual and gender-based violence. 

4 in 5 of the over 500 young people surveyed in Ireland said they or someone they knew had suffered negative effects from sexual health misinformation.

Access to accurate and comprehensive sexual health information is fundamental for girls and young women to attain their rights and fulfil their potential.

Our Youth Advisory Panel are calling for:

  • A peer-led sexual health education programme to be introduced in each secondary school.
  • An online resource developed to present factual, age-appropriate information on sexual
    health, developed in consultation with young people and trusted partners.
  • Relationships and Sexuality Education curriculum to be reformed in line with international
    best practice, and with a grounding in gender transformative education, youth participation,
    and child rights. All modules should be compulsory and school implementation should be
    monitored.
  • Comprehensive digital media literacy programmes, including, where possible, in school curricula, to meet the specific needs of girls and young women and support gender equality.
‘Your Plan’ – Autumn Newsletter 2021

Our Autumn 2021 newsletter is here!

We’re so excited to share with you your first issue of Your Plan. This newsletter will show you  the life-changing impact of your support on the lives of children, especially girls, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

You’re helping to keep children in education, where they belong – preventing child marriage, fighting gender-based violence and protecting girls from trafficking. You’re helping Plan International respond in times of emergency and natural disasters to keep children safe.

Your support really has been Plan International’s lifeline throughout this entire pandemic. So thank you, as always, for helping transform the lives of children around the world.

Tender: Consultant on Inclusive Quality Education in West Africa

Plan International Ireland is seeking a consultant to develop a series of guides on inclusive quality education.

Plan International Ireland is seeking a consultant to undertake a Desk Study of models of best practice in Inclusive Quality Education in programming in West Africa, to develop a series of short guides, available for organisational use, and sharing more broadly in the sector.

It is anticipated that this consultancy will take place from mid-October to December 2021. As source documents will mostly be in French, a good comprehension of French is required.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday the 13th of October 2021. 

Follow the link below for more details and how to apply.

Call to action: Education for Afghan girls

Plan International is disturbed by the news that many girls are not being allowed return to school in Afghanistan.

We have endorsed the call to action of the International Parliamentary Network For Education, calling for the education of Afghanistan's children and young people.

Afghan girl in school
Afghan girl in school. Source: Fat Camera

“As schools reopen in Afghanistan, Plan International is disturbed by the news that many girls are not being allowed to return to secondary school.

Protecting and advancing the right of girls to go to school is essential and we call on all actors to ensure that every girl in Afghanistan, especially adolescent girls, can attend school.

For girls who have experienced a lifetime of conflict and upheaval, school provides a protective space and a sense of normality. Education provides a passport for a positive future, take it away from girls and you shatter their hopes and aspirations.

Unless all Afghan children, girls and boys, return to school then the progress in education that we have witnessed over the past two decades will be wiped out.

We cannot let another generation lose their right to learn and the opportunity to develop the skills they need to fulfil their potential and to contribute to society.

This latest development comes in the context of a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation where over a million children are now at risk of starvation and where nearly ten million girls and boys depend on humanitarian assistance.”

Supporting the education of Afghanistan’s children and young people: A call to action

Sharing from the International Parliamentary Network website; see original page & a list of all signatories here.

Following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, we have grave concerns for the human rights of Afghan citizens, especially women, girls, people with disabilities, and ethnic and religious minorities. 

We are particularly concerned about the right to education.

Whilst the international community must ensure the re-establishment of the conditions that guarantee the full rule of law and the respect of human rights and that those in power in Afghanistan respect the right to education, permission to operate and attend educational facilities alone will not be enough. The fundamental freedoms of women, girls, and minority and ethnic groups must be respected and protected by all parties, including their freedoms of movement, opinion, expression, and identity.

Protecting the right to education of Afghanistan’s population will require a significant increase in coordinated international support.

Supportive of the effort by Italy, acting as G20 president, to develop a common international strategy in response to the crisis in Afghanistan, we urge G20 member states to ensure the strategy includes a plan for education and lifelong learning for all.

That plan should be based on five commitments:

  • Ensuring the right to education and lifelong learning for all, based on the standards set by international human rights law.
  • Increasing humanitarian and development assistance, provided to the UN, international agencies, national organizations and communities, to ensure formal schools, community-based education programs, colleges, and universities with students of all genders, abilities, and backgrounds continue to operate and provide quality, inclusive education.
  • Providing support to host countries for the education of both existing and newly arriving refugee children and youth.
  • Increasing funding for tertiary study overseas, especially for women and people with disabilities.
  • Ensuring that a fundamental condition of any working relationship with the regime is that it upholds the right to education.

We urge the governments of the G20 to commission the relevant UN agencies to develop, fund, and implement a plan to protect and promote education for Afghan children, especially girls and people with disabilities, both in Afghanistan and those who have fled their country seeking protection. It is critical to ensure full participation and consultation of teachers, education support professionals, parents, and learners themselves in developing a comprehensive education plan.

Door-to-door fundraising

Plan International Ireland's Door-to-Door fundraising

As restrictions lift this year, we have made the decision to recommence door-to-door fundraising activity in line with government guidelines.

You may see Plan International Ireland fundraising representatives out and about in your neighbourhood, inspiring people to embark on the incredible journey of child sponsorship.

13-year-old Larissa in Burkina Faso has been part of Plan International's sponsor programme for 6 years

Door-to-door fundraising 

Door-to-door fundraising is one of the best ways for us to raise awareness about our work supporting the world’s most vulnerable children, and the funds needed to continue reaching them. It is a well-established activity that many well-known charities are using.

Child Sponsorship 

Child sponsorship is a form of giving that ensures we have a consistent and reliable income to support our child-centred community development and rights-based programmes. It is our largest source of income and means we can plan efficiently to continue to transform the lives of children and their communities around the world.

Locations

Our fundraising representatives are currently recruiting child sponsors in Ballinteer, Rathfarnham, Dundrum, Churchtown, Leopardstown and Foxrock. They currently recruit between the hours of 12 noon and 8:30pm.  

Our Fundraising Partner

Like many other charities, we partner with a professional fundraising agency, to help us raise much needed funds. Golden Egg Fundraising is a newly established professional fundraising service for charities built upon over 20 years of experience. To read more about the work of Golden Egg Fundraising please visit their website at https://gef.ie/

FAQs

How have you adapted door-to-door activity to respond to COVID-19?
We have worked hard to ensure door-to-door recruitment is undertaken sensitively, safely and responsibly, with extra measures in place to protect everyone’s health.
Our fundraising representatives will be wearing face-masks and will be issued with a personal bottle of hand sanitiser and sterile wipes which they will use throughout the day.
All of our fundraising representatives have received comprehensive training on adhering to social distancing guidelines, on the use of their personal protective equipment and on hygiene and coughing and sneezing etiquette. They will sanitise their tablets regularly throughout the day.
We have adapted our sign-up process so it can now be completed at a safe distance without passing items. All Welcome Pack materials will be sent to new supporters by post rather than distributed at your door.

How can I be sure that the individual I’m speaking to is a legitimate fundraiser?
Genuine Plan International Ireland fundraisers will always carry an ID badge and never accept cash donations. They will wear a Plan International branded jacket or polo-shirt, a face-mask and carry a branded messenger bag.
If you have any doubts about legitimacy, please ask the fundraiser for more information. A genuine fundraising representative will be more than happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of Plan International.
If you still have doubts, please don’t hesitate to contact our Supporter Care Team on 1800 829 829 or at info@plan.ie 
Are my personal and banking details safe?
Yes. Please be assured that the data shared between Plan International Ireland and Golden Egg Fundraising is done so securely and is encrypted.
How does child sponsorship work?
Child Sponsorship is a regular gift of €22 or more via direct debit. Once you sign-up to become a Sponsor you will receive a Welcome Pack in the post with an introduction to you Sponsored Child and their community. A Sponsor is uniquely linked to a specific Sponsored Child and their family and letters, messages, photographs and drawings can be exchanged to build a strong and lasting relationship. Child Sponsorship nurtures meaningful relationships with communities, families, children and Sponsors to enable Plan International to make a lasting impact in strengthening children’s rights and equality for girls.
Is Sponsorship like adoption?
No, it’s not. The child you sponsor will have a family of their own, but your words of encouragement play an important role for them and their community. Letter writing also helps children to learn about other cultures and to improve their literacy skills.
How can I request more information?
Our Supporter Relations team are happy to answer any questions you have about sponsorship and the work of Plan International. You can reach them on 1800 829 829 or at info@plan.ie

Halted Lives: The Impact of COVID-19 on Girls' Lives & Education

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen inequalities increase around the world and driven back decades of progress on gender equality & girls’ education.

This week, as world leaders gather in London for the Global Partnership for Education’s Global Education summit, we are shining a spotlight on the impacts of the pandemic on girls’ lives and education across the world.

Our Halted Lives series of conversations will take you on a (virtual) journey from Amman to Dublin, from, Freetown to Washington DC.

The conversations platform the voices of children and young people as they share their experiences of the pandemic and their hopes for the future.

The series also features Minister for Overseas Development & The Diaspora Colm Brophy, CEO of the GPE Alice Albright, presenter Maia Dunphy and singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes.

Check it out below! 

Jessica Gill in conversation with Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education.

Rama Dahabra in conversation with Minister Colm Brophy.

Sewanatu Fatu in conversation with songwriter Gemma Hayes. 

Conversations with children at the Central Model School in Dublin. 

Amara Onyegiri in conversation with teacher, Paula Galvin. 

Maia Dunphy in conversation with the Youth Advisory Panel.

Find out how Plan International is helping to Stop The Setback for girls, and how you can support our work, at the link below. 

“Now we can stay in school when we have our period”

Many girls around the world are forced to stay at home when they have their period as they do not have access to the resources they need to manage menstruation in safety and dignity. Some girls end up dropping out of school altogether.

Plan International is working to ensure that no girl misses out on her education because of her period. this is Awa's story.

13-year-old Awa lives in the Center East region of Burkina Faso with her parents and siblings. With support from Plan International, her school has been assisting girls to manage their periods by installing gender-segregated latrines and teaching girls how to make their own reusable period pads.

Awa remembers having to manage her period in the bushes near the school before the latrines were installed. Many of her classmates used to stay at home from school altogether when they had their period.

“When I first came to this school, the latrines were bad,” she says. “There were no separate latrines for boys and girls – now the latrines are brilliant, and we can stay in school when we have our period. We just change our pads in the latrines and go back to class.”

13 -year-old Awa is hearing impaired. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up and inspire the younger generation. Access to education can be a serious challenge for girls in Burkina Faso, especially girls with disabilities, as the country is grappling with insecurity, displacement and now also coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Girls are vulnerable to being subjected to child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence. On top of this, difficulties in managing their periods can mean girls miss school, leading to some eventually dropping out of education and never returning.

Georgette is a teacher in Awa’s school and can recall when menstrual hygiene management was a major challenge for female students. She is very glad that girls can now manage their periods in safety and dignity, and they are not forced out of education.

“There are so many barriers to girls’ access to education, including child, early & forced marriage and the burden of housework. Before the segregated latrines were installed, many girls would stay at home on their period, and some would end up dropping out altogether. It meant that many girls failed school especially if their period coincided with exams or assessments.”

“Before, there was nowhere for the girls to change in private as the latrines were mixed and there was no door. Now the girls are happy they can manage their period and stay in school.”

Georgette believes in unlocking the power and potential of girls across Burkina Faso by ensuring they can go to school.

“I would like everyone to know that girls too can build the country like men. What men can do, girls can do too. There is a saying that ‘to educate a girl is to educate a nation’. I want all girls in Burkina Faso to attend school.”

“I divorced my husband to finish my education.”

Zainab got married when she was 17 years old and gave birth to her first daughter Mashallah a year later. In Zainab’s community in Sudan, parents are responsible for arranging their daughter’s marriages, usually without consulting the bride.

“I got married after I finished my exams in my third semester at university. My husband promised me that I would be able to finish my education but when I was getting ready to go back to university, he stopped me from leaving and said, ‘consider yourself a divorced woman if you go back’,” Zainab explains.

34% of girls in Sudan are married before the age of 18 and 12% are married before their 15th birthday. Child marriage is driven by gender inequality and exacerbated by poverty, low levels of education and harmful traditional norms and attitudes. Girls are usually married to men who are older than them and rarely have a say in decisions regarding their marriage.

With no alternative, Zainab dropped her studies and not long afterwards fell pregnant, but she refused to give up on her dream of finishing her education. “I said to myself, if I get educated and get my certificate, then I can change my daughter’s life and I can educate her too and if she faces any problems in her life, she can say that her mother overcame this problem, so I can too. I want to be a role model for her.”

When her daughter was eleven months old, Zainab divorced her husband and set about raising Mashallah as a single mother. “I have started my life from scratch and soon I will resume my studies at university. I think that child marriage is a complete violation against girls and it undermines women’s rights.”

Zainab credits Plan International with helping her gain a better understanding of gender equality and girls’ rights. “My first Plan International workshop was in 2009. It was about women’s rights and female empowerment. Another workshop I attended was about violence against women. I think I’m stronger because of them, Plan International were very supportive of me.”

Having worked as a volunteer teacher at the school in her village since 2017 and now working at the literacy centre in her community, Zainab is a firm believer that education offers girls a better future. “I am teaching at the school because there are some girls who have dropped out of school, they are told that education is not important and I’m trying to help them to continue their studies.”

When asked what message she would give to other girls, Zainab says: “Don’t accept marriage while you are under 18. If you forced to do so, you should tell them that child marriage has risks. A young girl cannot do all the household work or have sex with her husband because she is still growing.”

“When a girl is under 18, she should not become pregnant and will face infertility problems. If she does get pregnant, she will face problems during childbirth and she is also at a high risk of miscarriage because her pelvis is still growing. This is all because of child marriage.”

Now 21, Zainab is looking forward to returning to university and is very optimistic about her future, and that of her young daughter who is now three. “I want my daughter to live a happy life without any problems. That she has good education and marries the love of her life after she becomes a woman. That is what I hope for my daughter in the future.”

Preventing the spread of coronavirus in Cameroon

With funding from the IRish Emergency Alliance, Plan International has supported displaced children to safely return to school in CAmeroon

“I didn’t know how to protect myself from coronavirus. We had heard about the number of victims claimed by the pandemic throughout the world and we, in our remote region and already dealing with difficult living conditions, knew that we were facing trouble”, says 15-year-old student Madi in Cameroon.

From bully to ally: the boy preventing period shaming

13-year-old Cephas is challenging myths & stigma surrounding menstruation

13-year-old Cephas is in his final year of junior secondary school. A few years ago, he and his friends used to make fun of girls when they had their period. Growing up, he was told that girls were unclean and should be shunned whenever they were menstruating. But today, after joining a health club set up at his school by Plan International, he is now a champion for girls’ rights and a strong advocate for girls’ menstrual health management.

Cephas lives with his family in the Volta Region of Ghana and has three sisters. As a young boy, he saw how badly his sisters were treated when they had their periods, forced to stay separate from the family because they were considered to be ‘unclean’. In school, because he could not tell if a girl was menstruating or not, he and his friends distanced themselves from the girls, believing that all girls were dirty.

“In this community, there is a myth around periods and it is noticeable in the way women and girls are treated. When girls have their periods, they are separated from their families and treated as outcasts,” he says. “Girls are not allowed to cook for the family or touch anything belonging to the family during their periods because they are unclean.”

Because of the shame and stigma girls are forced to endure, many miss school when they are menstruating and some drop out of school altogether when their periods start. As part of a rural water, sanitation and health (RWASH) project in the region, Plan International set up a health club at Cephas’ school to discuss menstrual health and hygiene management with the students.

Initially, the boys were unwilling to join the clubs, but one boy did come to the meetings and he convinced Cephas to join the club as well. In the two years that the club has been running, Cephas says he has discovered many false superstitions surrounding menstrual health and is challenging these barriers by helping with the distribution of sanitary pads and spearheading a health campaign that is challenging negative attitudes around menstruation in his community.

“It is my dream to see boys and men embracing the thought that menstruation is a natural occurrence in the lives of women and girls and not to be seen as unclean. After learning so much from the health club, I feel bad about how I have treated my sisters,” he says.

Cephas says his biggest achievement so far has been to change his father’s mindset on menstruation. “My sisters can now sleep in the house during their periods. My father has come to realise that no evil can befall his household with them being a part of the family when they are menstruating.”