Anne Marie McCarthy, Plan International Ireland’s Emergencies’ Programme Manager.
On International Women’s Day, people worldwide are celebrating the strength and power of women. Women they know. Women they are inspired by. Women leading the fight for equality. And the trailblazers who share their power by showing girls what they can become and giving them the opportunity to lead as well.
When women challenge the status quo, they can ignite girls’ own leadership aspirations. Women represent what girls can become.
Female leaders who step aside for our Girls’ Takeover on International Day of the Girl send a powerful signal to aspiring young leaders. When Jigyasa Sharma, 26, took over at the Áras an Uachtaráin, it was a very inspiring experience for her. She spoke with Ms Sabina Higgins and Mr Art O’Leary, the Secretary General to the President of Ireland, about how to nurture girls’ rights, and how to help girls grow into stronger and more confident people.
Girls can and do lead change, but they need allies. Everyone needs to understand what constitutes gender discrimination, their role in it and how they can eliminate it.
Jigyasa Sharma is from New Delhi, India and is currently working with Plan International Ireland in Dublin
“Nihil de nobis, sine nobis” Nothing about us, without us.
Equality starts with girls. Girls must be included and supported by their biggest allies: women. Working with children and young people to listen to their voices and get their feedback is very important to Plan International.
When we take the time to listen to girls, we also give them the space to discuss issues that are important to them. On a recent field visit to Jordan, Muna Abbas, the Country Director, told us that being a leader allowed her the opportunity to guide the country programme, but this also meant being accountable for decisions made. By having strong feedback mechanism in place and engaging with children and young people on a regular basis means that Muna and other role models will truly speak with and for children.
All over the world Plan International is working alongside girls and young women who are advocating for change in their communities and countries – campaigning to end child marriage, get access to better health services, or have the voices of young people heard in their governments.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, many of the activists we work with say allying themselves with women and the wider movement for gender equality has helped them to advocate without fear. In Plan International’s School of Political Empowerment in Latin America, making the connections between younger and older generations of activists to support ‘collective influencing’ is seen as a key strategy to harness the power of diverse groups and movements.
Globally, we need a strong movement for change, to build momentum. Today is a reminder for people to seek change in their communities, and push to make systems better for women and girls – especially for those who lack the power to fight alone.