Engaging youth in the Lake Chad basin

Lake Chad Programme Manager, Anne-Marie McCarthy, recently visited Maiduguri - read her reflections on the importance of engaging youth as agents of change in the Lake Chad region

Lydia Barnabas, above, is the vice-president of the Kaleri Youth Group in the North-east of Nigeria.

Last week I travelled to Maiduguri, in the North East of Nigeria where Plan International is working to support people displaced as a result of the prolonged crisis in the Lake Chad region.

Kaleri youth group has over 700 members and 12 officers and is working with Plan International on a programme working on youth engagement and social cohesion.  Lydia has been with the youth group for three years. She joined because she wanted to help in her community. Lydia works as a volunteer teacher with primary classes 3 and 5. Lydia was also one of the people who was interviewed for the study that the Plan International Lake Chad programme carried out on the impact of COVID-19 on youth in the Lake Chad region, and presented on her experiences of the pandemic during the webinar that was organized to launch the report.

You can read the report here: https://reliefweb.int/node/3685738

The report highlighted the challenges for young people to get involved in their communities and making their voices heard. Some of the other challenges included access to accurate information relating to the pandemic; the impact of school closures and the loss of income opportunities. In fact, access to fair and decent employment and income opportunities pre-existed the pandemic and is a huge challenge for young people in the Lake Chad region, and beyond.

Plan is working with support from the European Union and Plan International Germany on a programme to support the participation of young people in decision making on processes that affect them, in cooperation with Kaleri youth group, as mentioned above. It targets disenfranchised youth groups and addresses the rights of the most vulnerable youth, including young women and girls, minorities and persons with disabilities.

Youth must be engaged as agents of change in the Lake Chad Basin

During the meeting with young people in the North-east of Nigeria, where I met Lydia, the youth groups present explained that while they are very active and want to participate, they often struggle to organise effectively and be heard.

Anne-Marie met with youth in Maiduguri

In Niger, up to 70% of the population are under 25 and in Cameroon and Nigeria, the figures are very similar. Young people are disproportionately affected by the conflict, both as victims and as active participants. There is sometimes a perception that the identity and development of young people have been affected by the prolonged armed conflict. The constant involvement of some young people as perpetrators of violence has led some people to stereotype them as the problem.

In a society, where the elders dominate political and social activity, young people find themselves with a very limited role to play. The youth group representatives told us that there are still critical gaps with regard to youth engagement in the development and peacebuilding process within communities. Plan International is working with communities to support platforms where important discussions can take place.

To paraphrase Whitney Houston, (I believe) the children (and young people) are our future.

How well will we let them lead the way?

Quality, inclusive education & COVID-19 prevention in Mali

Plan International, with funding from Irish Aid, is continuing to ensure children can access education during the pandemic & is working with communities to prevent COVID-19 taking hold

Plan International Ireland, funded by Irish Aid, is working with Plan International Mali to deliver the EQuIP Programme – ensuring the delivery of inclusive,quality education to children.  While the coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges to the programme’s delivery, activities have been adapted to ensure children can access education and protect themselves from COVID-19.

Mali has been affected by a complex insecurity situation since 2012. Following the outbreak of the conflict, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and many thousands of children were left without access to education.

Plan International has been working in Timbuktu in the north of the country to ensure children have access to quality, inclusive education via the EQuIP programme funded by Irish Aid.  

The project is being implemented in 60 primary schools and 30 preschools in villages in Timbuktu, with a core focus on inclusion for marginalised children, especially girls and children with disabilities, through their participation and that of their communities in educational decision-making at all levels. Partners and participants are also supported to advocate for positive changes in education policy and practice.   

As a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent public health restrictions, children and their families have been, and will continue to be, affected by the far-reaching impacts of the disease. COVID-19 restrictions initially resulted in the closure of schools and pre-schools, and due to the need for social distancing many other programme activities, like teacher training and community sensitisation, had to be postponed. 

Plan International Mali staff worked closely with relevant local stakeholders and communities to figure out ways that the EQuIP Programme could adapt and support educational needs remotely, while also assisting in awareness raising about COVID-19, and prevention and protection measures that could be implemented. 

Below you will see some of the activities we have been implementing in Timbuktu since the outbreak of COVID-19!

Student, Fatouma Mint, is demonstrating handwashing in the Kasbar Reception Centre for children of families who have been displaced by the violence in the Timbuktu area. The project is supporting these children to return to school. The photo was taken during an awareness raising session on COVID-19 prevention and protection and was organised in partnership with the Taoudenie Children’s Parliament.

Here, one of the children attending Arouane kindergarten in Timbuktu, Mohamed Touré, is showing everyone the handwashing techniques he learned to protect himself from COVID-19. He was showing the techniques he had learned at a ceremony for the presentation of COVID-19 prevention kits to the Araouane kindergarten on behalf of the EQuIP programme, funded by Irish Aid.

Although in-person education came to a halt as a result of the pandemic, education modules were broadcast on local radio to ensure children could still access learning. Above is a photo from the opening ceremony of the validation workshop on the module to be broadcast on local radio during COVID-19. From left to right: Idrissa Maiga, representative of partner organisation Humanity and Inclusion; Yehia H Konta, Coordinator of the Municipality; Seyo Tamboura, director of the Timbuktu Teaching Academy (local office of the Ministry of Education); Bocar Sidiki Djitteye Plan International, Timbuktu Office.

Community leaders and women’s organisations have also been engaged in activities to prevent COVID-19. This picture was taken during a training of women’s organisations in the urban municipality of Timbuktu on COVID-19 prevention and protection, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.  The training was carried out in partnership with the coordination of women’s associations in Timbuktu.

When children are out of school, they can miss out on the provision of essentials, such as school meals and period products for girls. The above picture shows the preparations by Plan International and the Timbuktu Academy (local office of the Ministry of Education) for the delivery of dignity kits to 50 vulnerable children (girls and children living with a disability) and also COVID-19 prevention kits to target EQuIP schools.

World Children’s Day 2020

Making World Children's Day 2020, our CEO Paul O'Brien calls for urgent action to ensure progress made towards children's rights and equality for girls is not lost

As yesterday marked World Children’s Day, I want to take the opportunity to highlight the impact that the coronavirus pandemic is having on children across the world and the threat it poses to any gains made in recent years on children’s rights and equality for girls.

As restrictions came into force around the world this year to halt the spread of coronavirus, schools closed their doors, meaning 1.6 billion children no longer had access to in-person education. This has left many children, and girls in particular, at risk of physical, sexual and psychological violence. The longer that children stay out of education, the less likely they are to return – this is true for girls especially, with justified fears of an increase in harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM).

Plan International’s recently launched #FreeToBeOnline campaign also sounds the alarm about online gender-based violence, a phenomenon which has similarly been exacerbated by the pandemic. As children across the world spend less time in education and more time online, so too do those willing to abuse, harass and exploit them. Online freedom is an issue which transcends global divides, and disproportionately impacts girls and young women.

Our global Free To Be Online? report delved into the experiences of 14,000 girls in 22 countries of online abuse and harassment, and our Youth Advisory Panel also carried out research here in Ireland. While the global research found that 58% of girls have experienced some form of online harassment, 67% of girls surveyed in Ireland have been subjected to abuse or harassment online. The violence includes cyberstalking, being sent explicit images or messages, and/ or abusive and threatening messages and comments.

Girls and young women from ethnic & racial minorities, from the LGBTQ+ community, and girls with disabilities reported being more likely to suffer harassment. Shockingly, the average age the abuse starts at in Ireland is 13. Globally, girls as young as 8 face violence online.

It is clear that a whole-of-society approach is needed to tackle the issue. Almost 60,000 people have signed our open letter to social media companies calling for more action to prevent and respond to the abuse and harassment girls face on their platforms. We also need governments to step up and implement legislation that will hold perpetrators account for their actions. Earlier this month, we wrote to government and opposition leaders in Ireland calling for urgent enactment of the Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 and the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner. We also advocated for awareness-raising and education initiatives on the issue. The detestable non-consensual leaking of images of children and young women in Ireland this week once again highlights the need for urgent action to address this issue, and we are glad to see the government’s commitment to enact legislation soon. However, there will be a need for effective implementation and complementary policy measures to ensure the spirit of the law is realised.

Children, and girls in particular, across the world must be free from the threat and reality of violence in every space they occupy.

As we envision a world beyond the pandemic, we must ensure that children’s needs and gender equality are at the heart of decision-making processes. Without this, we risk reversing progress made towards a safer, more equal world and leaving no one behind by 2030.


Responding to COVID-19 in Cameroon

Irish aid has supported Plan International and partners in coronavirus prevention in rural and isolated communities in Cameroon

Cameroon was  already in a vulnerable position  prior to the outbreak of the  deadly COVID-19 pandemic this year.

Conflict and insecurity have prevailed in three distinct regions across the country in recent years: the Far North region has been suffering from the impact of the Lake Chad crisis; the Eastern region is hosting a large refugee population displaced by the conflict in Central African Republic; and the North West and South West regions are increasingly insecure due to intensifying clashes between Non-State Armed Groups and the government. The health service is stretched and has limited resources to cover a very large geographical area. The first recorded case of COVID-19 in the country was on the 19th of March this year, and over 22,000 cases have been recorded to date with 429 reported deaths.

Irish Aid & Plan International’s response to the pandemic in Cameroon

Community health worker, Amadou, demonstrating effective handwashing techniques

With the support of Irish Aid, Plan International’s emergency response in Cameroon aimed to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in isolated and rural areas. The actions targeted adults, youths and children in the North Region of Cameroon, and had two key focuses – capacity building to support the health service, and improving hygiene behaviours in communities.

During the project, community health workers were trained in COVID-19 prevention, and on how to safely conduct community awareness-raising activities on the disease. A national ban on public gatherings of over 50 people made large gatherings to educate communities about the virus impossible, so the solution was for community health workers to safely conduct door-to-door sensitizations instead. Messages were delivered to a total of 69,235 people in 5 districts via the project. In addition, messages were also translated into local languages Lame, Fali and Toupouri and broadcast on the radio to ensure they were accessible to those who do not understand French or English.

Amadou N, a health worker from the Gaschiga health district says: “before the training, I had no idea of what the terms ‘suspected case’, ‘confirmed case’ or ‘close contact’ meant. I knew the various barrier measures that the government had put in place, but I did not understand how exactly the virus was transmitted and acquired.”

For two days, the community health workers were trained on the various terminology related to the COVID-19 pandemic, on various symptoms of the disease and how to recognise a suspected case. They also received training on contact tracing, and reporting of suspected cases. After their training, they were deployed to the field to sensitize the population. Through demonstrating proper hand washing, they helped people to realise the need to wash their hands regularly and properly.

Amadou has noticed a significant change in behaviours in the community: “People were reluctant at first to put on face masks but thanks to our sensitization, they now wear their face masks every time they leave home. We also worked with the Fulanis who live in encampments that are separated from the rest of the community to ensure they received the messages on how to prevent the virus from spreading.”

Improving access to hygiene facilities in communities

15-year-old Hariratou has been using the new handwashing facilities in Gaschiga

100 hand-washing facilities were installed across 5 districts during the project. 15-year-old Hariratou S. lives in the community of Tapare in the Gaschiga health district. She was there the day a hand washing device was placed in her village square. She said:

“I used to go with my sister to the village square to sell beignet and pap made by our mother. Before the facility was installed, people used to buy our beignet and start eating without washing their hands. Now this has changed. People have become more conscious of the need to wash their hands before eating our beignet. Even passers-by stop frequently to wash their hands.”

Haoua in Lagdo has been using the newly installed facilities

Haoua K. who lives in Lagdo says: “We were hearing about coronavirus on the radio and on TV but when it entered into our community, we were very scared. Thanks to Plan International Cameroon, we now have enough knowledge about the virus and how to prevent its spread. I now move around with my face mask always. We also received soap to wash our hands regularly. Thanks to this effort, we have successfully kept the virus out of our community. We shall continue to respect the prevention measures so that our community can stay safe”.

Marking International Day of the Girl 2020

Find out about the events we held to mark International Day of the Girl 2020 and the #FreeToBeOnline campaign!

This year, despite the restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, we managed to host a series of events in honour of International Day of the Girl 2020. The Girls Takeover events gave members of our Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) the opportunity to step into the shoes of leaders, and platform the issues faced by girls and young women in Ireland and across the world. We also launched the #FreeToBeOnline campaign here in Ireland with some fantastic speakers and panellists.

Find out more about everything we did to mark International Day of the Girl 2020!

‘Girls’ Freedom Online’ virtual event: report launch and panel discussion

On the 8th of October we held a virtual event to launch the global Free To Be Online? report as well the findings of the Irish research into the abuse and harassment perpetrated against girls and young women online. The event featured contributions from Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and the Diaspora Colm Brophy, Chair of Plan International Ireland Conor Faughnan, our ambassador Laura Whitmore, and Anne Marie McCarthy and Manre Chirtau based in the Lake Chad region. The report launch was followed by a panel discussion on online gender-based violence with journalist Aoife Moore, DJ & Broadcaster Tara Stewart, and Amy Keane from our Youth Advisory Panel. The lively panel discussion was moderated by Plan International Ireland ambassador Diana Bunici. 

We are very grateful to everyone who gave so generously of their time and insights for the event!  

You can watch Minister of State Colm Brophy’s address highlighting the importance of equal and safe access to the internet for girls and women across the world, and the need for girls and young women to live their lives free from all forms of gender-based violence here. Watch our ambassador Laura Whitmore present the findings of the global and Irish research, and call for change, here.

Alternatively, you can watch the full event, including the panel discussion, above!  

Girls Takeover with Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman

Girls Takeovers give girls & young women the opportunity to step into leadership positions in business, politics or media and platform issues that are important to them.

YAP member Jessica Gill engaged in a Girls Takeover event with Minister O’Gorman to mark International Day of the Girl 2020. She spoke to the Minister about the Freedom Online campaign and the abuse and harassment experienced by girls and young women on social media, as well as other issues facing girls and young women in Ireland and across the world.

Girls Takeover with Irish Aid

Kadiatu Tholley, a youth advocate from Sierra Leone, took part in a joint virtual Girls Takeover alongside Jessica Gill from Ireland with Irish Aid’s Orla Mc Breen. The event was a great opportunity to highlight the differences and the commonalities in the barriers faced by girls in different parts of the world. Kadiatu spoke of the risk of child marriage for girls in Sierra Leone which forces them to drop out of school, while boys can stay in education. In Sierra Leone, it is very hard for girls to speak out on issues that affect them. Gender norms and stereotypes mean that girls are not allowed the same platforms or consideration as their male counterparts.

Both Kadiatu and Jessica spoke about the importance of girls stepping up into leadership positions including through Girls Takeover events. Kadiatu said: ‘We can be powerful, we can even be the next president of Sierra Leone- we have the potential to be there!’ Orla emphasised how gender equality is at the heart of Ireland’s policy framework for international development, A Better World, and reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to listening to girls’ voices and lived experience when advocating for policy change.

Instagram Live interview with Marissa Carter

As most events had to take place virtually this year as a result of restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it offered the us the opportunity to engage with influencers and ambassadors on social media platforms. YAP member Amy had an in-depth discussion with Plan International Ireland ambassador Marissa Carter about the issue of online harassment and abuse, and the important role that social media companies have in preventing and responding to this form of gender-based violence. Marissa spoke about the profound experience she had when she visited Guinea Bissau with Plan International in 2018, and both herself and Amy talked about the need to tackle inequalities from the global to the national and local level.

You can watch the whole interview back on Marissa’s Instagram feed.

A discussion on online violence with Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu

The Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu has received plenty of racist and sexist abuse online since becoming involved in politics. Our YAP had a Zoom call with the Lord Mayor and filled her in on the Freedom Online campaign and the high rates of online gender-based violence experienced by girls and young women. The Lord Mayor spoke with members of our YAP about the harassment she herself has faced, and the need for fit-for-purpose legislation to be in place to deter perpetrators and hold them accountable under the law. During their discussion, the Lord Mayor raised the point about how we would not tolerate someone coming to a person’s house holding a sign threatening assault or harassment, so the same should not be allowed go unaddressed on social media platforms. They also discussed the core role of youth advocacy in creating positive changes in society.


Girls Takeover with Senior Directors at PayPal

Amy and Jessica joined Annette Hickey and Maeve Dorman, two senior directors at PayPal, for a Girls Takeover over Zoom. They discussed the enduring glass ceiling, how women navigate gender-specific barriers in their careers, and the overall lack of female representation in senior management positions in Ireland and beyond. Maeve and Annette gave some advice to Amy and Jessica on how to ensure they get a seat at the table during their careers and ensure that their voices are heard – including advice on networking, making connections and building a support network around them in pursuing their careers. They finished the discussion by talking about the Freedom Online campaign and the shocking statistics showing the extent of abuse and harassment faced by girls and young women on social media.

Girls Takeover with The Shona Project

This year was YAP member Aoife’s second time being involved in events for IDG. Building on her experience, she took the initiative to organise her own takeover with an organisation that shares Plan’s mission of celebrating girls and young women all over the world: The Shona Project. Aoife liaised with the organisation’s founder, Tammy Darcy, to organise a virtual discussion and Instagram takeover. They discussed the importance of asking for help when you need it, the negative impact of social media, and which women they look up to as role models. You can read Aoife’s essay about IDG and the importance of the Freedom Online campaign here.  

Social media Girls Takeovers with Her.ie, Chupi and The Body Shop

This year, our Girls Takeovers extended to social media accounts! Her.ie shared content and stories on International Day of the Girl from Jessica, and called on readers and followers to sign the global open letter to social media companies calling for action. Chupi also gave us space on her Instagram page where she posted a series of stories from YAP member Aoife talking about the Free To Be Online report, the Irish survey findings and the importance of International Day of the Girl. Sarah Collins featured on The Body Shop’s Facebook stories too, on the day itself. We’d like to extend a BIG thank you to everyone who shared their platform to amplify the call for gender equality for International Day of the Girl 2020.

Responding to COVID-19 in Borno State, Nigeria

Plan International is working to improve COVID-19 prevention and response measures in Borno State

Already grappling with insurgency & large numbers of internally displaced people, Borno State now has the added risk of COVID-19 to contend with.

Plan International is supporting communities to protect themselves from COVID-19.

As the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. Not only is the country contending with the public health crisis caused by the pandemic, it is also grappling with the ongoing instability in the country – partially due to Boko Haram and other non-state armed forces, as well as the protracted Lake Chad crisis.

Borno State in the north-east of Nigeria has been the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria for the past 10 years, leaving its civilians caught in the middle. The insurgency has compounded and worsened socioeconomic problems in the state and has had an acute impact on services, including on the provision of health services. In addition, there are an estimated 1.5 million internally displaced people in Borno State, many of whom are living in overcrowded camps with poor or limited hygiene and sanitation facilities. Borno State is therefore very susceptible to the potentially devastating effects of COVID-19.

Distribution of PPEs and IPC items to Brigadier Kyari Memorial Hospital

With the support of Irish Aid, Plan International has been working to strengthen the COVID-19 response in Borno State through improving the quality of healthcare provision in 11 facilities. Plan International Nigeria distributed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) items to the centres, and also carried out training to build the capacities of staff in the centres.

The training centered on COVID-19 prevention and transmission, and incorporated gender segregated Social and Behavioural Change Communication (SBCC), targeting COVID-19. Gender roles and unequal power dynamics can affect the reach and impact of health messaging – however, integrating gender into SBCC has been shown to make public health messages more effective, promote gender equality and improve health outcomes.

Dissemination of gender segregated SBCC messages in Hawul Stabilization center

Over 230 frontline staff were trained in infection prevention and control across the 11 health centres, which included cleaning and maintenance staff as they play a central role in defending against the virus. The dissemination of public health messaging across wider communities and households was a core element of the project.

Through sensitization sessions in health facilities, house to house visits and awareness raising in nutrition centres, a total of 89,708 people were reached through the project.

Free To Be Online?

Online abuse & harassment is taking its toll on girls in Ireland and globally - two thirds of girls surveyed in Ireland, and over half globally, have experienced online violence.

This International Day of the Girl, Plan International is shining a spotlight on the abuse and harassment girls and young women are facing online every single day and calling for change so girls are #FreeToBeOnline.

From physical threats and racial abuse, to body shaming and sexual harassment, social media is simply not a safe space right now for girls and young women in all their diversity. 

While Plan International carried out research with 14,000 girls across 31 countries, the Youth Advisory Panel of Plan International Ireland carried out similar research here with 457 girls and young women to complement and supplement the global findings.

Unsurprisingly, the findings of both reports paint a grim picture of girls’ experiences online.

The majority of respondents had experienced online harassment – 58% at the global level, and 67% in Ireland.

The repercussions of this are clear in the findings: one quarter of respondents in both the global report and in Ireland felt physically unsafe. In the global report, 42% lost self-esteem or self-confidence – that figure was much higher in Ireland, at 75%. Similarly, 65% of Irish respondents experienced mental or emotional stress due to online harassment, higher than the 42% who said they did across 22 countries.

Half of girls in the global report said they face more online harassment than street harassment, previously the most predominant location for harassment of girls and women – in Ireland, 90% of respondents felt equally as likely or else more likely to be harassed online.

Younger girls are not safe from this either. The global report states that online harassment starts for girls from the shocking age of 8. Girls report that social media harassment is at its peak between the ages of 14-16. In Ireland, the average age this abuse starts is between 13 and 14.

In Ireland, most girls listed the following abusive experiences as happening frequently or very frequently:

  • Stalking
  • Body Shaming
  • Purposeful embarrassment
  • Generally abusive and insulting language
  • Anti- LGBTQ comments
  • Racist comments
  • Sexual harassment
  • Threats of physical and sexual violence

At the global level, 37% of those harassed who identified as being from an ethnic minority said they were abused because of their ethnicity or race. 56% of those harassed who identified as being LGBTIQ+ said they were harassed because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Girls with disabilities were also targeted, with 14% of girls who identified as having a disability harassed for this reason.

The Irish survey also found that over three quarters felt targeted because of their style and appearance.

The effects of online harassment and abuse are far-reaching, impacting girls’ mental health, confidence, self-esteem and relationships. It’s driving some girls offline, and causing others to change how they express themselves.


The time to act is now so girls are #FreeToBeOnline. 

International Day of the Girl 2020

See what we have planned for International Day of the Girl 2020.

Girls' Freedom Online Event

Make sure to join us for our event on Thursday the 8th of October as we launch research highlighting the scale of violence facing girls online, and delve into the issue with some amazing speakers.

We will kick at 10.30am off by launching the global ‘Free To Be Online?’ report with 14,000 girls across multiple continents, which will be supplemented by research carried out in Ireland with 457 girls and young women.

Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and the Diaspora, Colm Brophy, will open proceedings.

Report Launch 

Plan International Ambassador, Laura Whitmore, will present the findings from both the Irish and global research. Our Chair, Conor Faughnan will speak some more about our work to counter gender based violence and the issue of Girls’ Freedom Online, before Anne Marie McCarthy and Manre Chirtau based in Nigeria with Plan International, will wrap up this section with insights from the Lake Chad region. 

Panel Discussion

Following the report launch, our Ambassador, Diana Bunici, will discuss how girls and young women navigate online abuse and harassment and how social media can be used for self-expression and community-building. 

Diana will be joined by journalist Aoife Moore, DJ and broadcaster Tara Stewart, and member of Plan International Ireland’s Youth Advisory Panel, Amy Keane. 

You can still register for the event here 👇

Other events


Marissa Carter in Guinea Bissau with Sona on her trip with Plan International in 2018.

Join us on Friday the 9th of October over on Instagram as Marissa Carter hosts an Instagram Live chat at 11am with Youth Advisory Panel member, Amy!

Plan Supporter Chupi

On Sunday the 11th of October, International Day of the Girl, Chupi’s Instagram account will be taken over by content developed by our Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). Check it out over on Chupi’s page @chupisweetman.

The Body Shop’s Instagram account will also feature content from our youth on the day. Follow @thebodyshop for more!

Girls Takeovers

On Monday the 5th of October, Minister for Children, Disability, Equality Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman hosted a Girls Takeover with YAP member Jessica, where they also discussed the issue of Girls’ Freedom Online. 

On the 8th of October, YAP member Aoife, will take over the role of the CEO of The Shona Project, Tammy Darcy, for the day! Follow the action over at @shonadotie. 

On Monday the 12th, YAP members from Ireland and Sierra Leone will take part in a Girls Takeover event with Irish Aid. 

Watch this space for other events to be announced, including an upcoming meeting with Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu! 

📣Join us as we mark International Day of the Girl 2020!

This year we're highlighting the abuse & harassment faced by girls in Ireland and around the world online and calling for action to ensure girls are #FreeToBeOnline

We would love for you to join us to mark this year’s International Day of the Girl with our event, Girls’ Freedom Online, on the 8th of October from 10:30 – 13:00!

This year, we are shining a spotlight on the abuse and harassment girls in Ireland and around the world experience in the online space. 

From 10:30 to 11:30 we will explore the issue of Girl’s Freedom Online in depth, particularly in the context of Plan International’s work and the broader issue of gender equality and violence against women and girls. The issue is one that affects girls and young women across the world, transcending social, cultural and geographical divides. We will launch the State of the World’s Girls Report: ‘Free To Be Online?’ details the experiences of 14,000 girls across 22 countries in the online space. This research will be supplemented by a survey carried out in Ireland to gauge girls’ experiences here in comparison to the global research.*

*Spoiler alert: the findings are quite bleak and underscore the need for decisive action to counter the abuse and harassment of girls and young women online!

Following the report launch, we will have a panel discussion featuring three women who have firsthand experience of the issue, and also know how important social media can be for activism and community building. 

You can join in our call to ensure girls everywhere are #FreeToBeOnline! 

Register for the event here👉: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PLE9qD_ZRE6qsweTAVK1qQ 

Overcoming the cost of periods during coronavirus in Kenya

"Not only do I not have access to sanitary pads, I also have to pay to access a bathroom," says Jacinta, 15, Kenya.

For many girls and young women living in informal settlements, menstruation comes at a cost. Buying sanitary towels is a challenge but in addition to this, many girls also have to pay to access bathrooms. Most bathroom facilities in the area charge USD 15 cents to use the services, so for a girl to use it once a day, they will need to spend around 1 USD over the course of a week which is hard to find when you have limited means.

Jacinta, 15, lives in one of the densely populated informal settlements in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. For her, the challenge of menstrual hygiene management goes beyond just accessing sanitary pads.

“We wash only once a day or not at all because of the expense that come with washing two or three times a day. Having to pay for the bathroom services as well as buying sanitary towels is a financial strain for many of us,” says Jacinta

Families living in the informal settlements struggle to make ends meet. Food, rent and day to day needs have become even harder to pay for since the coronavirus outbreak. Most people are relying on their meagre savings to survive. The choice between putting food on the table and accessing washing facilities and sanitary materials, means that often girls have to go without adequate sanitation amenities.

“Times are hard for us as parents, COVID-19 has robbed us of the time and space to work. My small business was booming but now my income has fallen by 80%. There are fewer customers and those who come take items and pay later which means that I often incur losses,” says Jemimah, Jacinta’s mother who runs a market stall selling vegetables.

“As a mother of three children I am finding it hard to support their needs. My two girls need sanitary towels every month, they need water to bathe and clothes to wear, there are so many competing priorities. This is entirely my responsibility because their father is also without a source of income. If something is not done, we will all perish.”

As part of our response to COVID-19, Plan International’s ‘Safe and Inclusive Cities’ project has come up with an initiative dubbed ‘Shower for girls’ which pays for girls to access bathroom services in the settlements.

“The gesture that Plan International has showed to us has greatly eased our burden. We are able to use the bathroom more than once a day and this is a huge relief. My menstrual hygiene was at stake and this was the case for many other girls. This project has saved us from mockery and shame. Boys used to mock and call us names because of not bathing. Some of them insinuated that we were smelling, and this lowered our self-esteem and confidence.” Jacinta explains.

“There is very little privacy in informal settlements, and it takes courage to go through such kinds of mockery, those who are not empowered may end up hating themselves and even suffering depression or committing suicide. Life was better before COVID-19 because we used to get the essential supplies we needed from our schools, but now we are all at home.”

Jemimah is well used to the challenges that menstrual hygiene brings to girls from the area and is grateful for the help her daughter is receiving. “Many girls are suffering in silence, getting sanitary towels is hard for them and they end up resorting to alternatives, which are dangerous to their health. Some use pieces of clothes and others source financial help from men, which in the end comes with consequences.”

“Plan international’s Shower for girl’s initiative has greatly helped us and many other girls and their families. As a mother, it was very difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I am unable to adequately provide for my children. So, this is a huge relief for me,” says Jemimah.


You can support the Irish Emergency Alliance's Coronavirus Appeal

Plan International is proud to be a member of the Irish Emergency Alliance – six leading Irish charities who have come together to respond to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic in some of the world’s poorest and most fragile regions. 

With cases and deaths rising exponentially across the world, the Irish Emergency Alliance has united to respond on the ground in seven countries already grappling with conflict, massive numbers of refugees and displaced people, extreme poverty and poorer health infrastructure.

Kenya is of the seven countries we are focusing on in our Coronavirus Appeal. 

The Irish Emergency Alliance is made up of ActionAid, Christian Aid, Plan International, Self Help Africa, Tearfund and World Vision. You can support the work of the Irish Emergency Alliance so that we can save more lives together. 

Please donate at www.irishemergencyalliance.org , by calling 1 800 939 979 or by texting IEA to 50300 to give €4.