Josepha, 17, from Haiti, says: “Our voices are never heard. All decisions are taken by men, and hardly involve women.”
Her words typify the experiences of girls who grow up in communities which don’t see the value of gender equality. The consequences are profound. Large numbers of girls are thrown into often abusive marriages at a very young age. They may be forced to abandon their education. They may end up in combat or be sold as child labour. Malnourishment and HIV are constant dangers.
Sexual assault is another menace for many young girls, with conflict exacerbating that particular threat. Christiana, from Sierra Leone, was abducted by rebels in 1998 when she was just 14. “One of the rebels raped me. After that I was used as a sex slave and held captive for three years. I became pregnant in 2002 and gave birth to a baby boy.”
These are just a handful of the challenges girls have to face around the world every day.
Plan UK develops various schemes to help girls and their communities deal with both day-to-day poverty and issues as wide ranging as FGM, forced marriage, HIV infection and a lack of education. They are currently looking for individuals and groups to join their existing one million sponsors and contribute to the growth and well being of girls in 49 countries worldwide. (Boys can also be sponsored, but the focus of The Guardian campaign is on girls, who suffer disproportionately due to their sex, as the above video shows).
You can find out more about sponsorship here, and request an information pack here. From what I’ve read, it appears that although you are assigned a particular child, with whom you are encouraged to make contact, your money is used for community projects which will benefit them rather than going to the child direct. Makes sense.