Young female activists are fearlessly challenging adversity and reshaping the world, according to groundbreaking research conducted by the girls’ rights NGO, Plan International.
The global study, which engaged over a thousand young female activists between the ages of 15 and 24 from 26 countries, has unveiled the courage and determination displayed by these girls as they strive for positive transformation. They encounter a range of difficulties, from community opposition and oppressive policing to online harassment, with one in five (17%) acknowledging concerns for their safety during their activism work.
The research reveals that 9% of these young activists have encountered threats of physical violence due to their dedication, and 15% have experienced online harassment and abuse. Despite these adversities, the majority of girls (95%) reported that their activism has had a profoundly positive impact on their lives, instilling in them a sense of pride, empowerment, and capability.
An impressive 61% of the surveyed activists believe that their efforts in activism have either met or exceeded their expectations in terms of creating positive change. Gender equality ranks as the most crucial issue for 60% of girl activists, with gender-based violence also a significant concern. The toll of activism on girls’ mental health is unmistakable, as 25% have reported experiencing emotional distress or anxiety during their activist work. For LGBTIQ+ activists, this figure climbs to 31%. The negative views from family or community members pose another barrier to girls’ campaign work, with 27% highlighting this as a challenge.
STRONG WILL AND DETERMINATION
The report amplifies the voices of young female campaigners, showcasing the challenges they confront and their unyielding commitment to crafting a better world. Muzoon, a Syrian refugee and education activist who contributed to the report, emphasized that “To be an activist requires a tremendous amount of patience, strong will, and determination.”
Blessing, a campaigner from Sierra Leone, reflected on her work empowering girls and breaking down gender discrimination. “Girls have so much potential, but they’re not given the platform to exhibit this potential. I’m ready to let them see what we have as females. To let society know what we can contribute and to show each and every person out there in the world that there must be no discrimination or less regard for females.”
Girl activists are advocating for a diverse range of issues, encompassing gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights, climate action, and environmental protection. Despite the hurdles they encounter, they are heralding positive change in their communities and far beyond.
Kathleen Sherwin, Plan International’s Chief Strategy and Engagement Officer, acknowledges the remarkable accomplishments of girl activists while underscoring the necessity of supporting their work, safeguarding their well-being, and ensuring their voices are prominent in decision-making processes. In a world where gender discrimination persists, young female activists serve as beacons of change, making great strides even in the face of personal risks. Their persistence is crucial to advancing gender equality and creating a more equitable future for all.