From El Salvador to the U.S.: Meet the young advocate making change for girls

April 5, 2022
By Kerri Whelan
April 5, 2022

Andrea, a young advocate from El Salvador, is using activism to make her voice heard — and it’s brought her all the way to the U.S. government, working to make global change for gender equality.

Andrea is a young advocate with Plan from El Salvador.
Andrea works with Plan to advocate for girls’ rights in El Salvador and around the world.

On Feb. 2, 2022, Andrea participated in a consultation with 12 staff members from the U.S. government to advise on its gender-based violence prevention strategy. She learned about the opportunity after an invitation was extended via Plan to young female leaders from around the world. Andrea joined the consultation with girls from other countries, sharing her experiences and learning about the challenges others face relating to gender-based violence.

And, she saw that girls and women all across the world are dealing with violence and discrimination.

“Gender-based violence has no borders,” Andrea says. “The consultation allowed me to share the current situation for girls and women in my country and reveal all the problems we face on a daily basis, like sexual harassment. I also had the opportunity to propose new alternatives to address these problems, and how to improve the conditions for girls and women.”

Andrea worked with staff from the White House, Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development to develop solutions for preventing gender-based violence around the world, like creating more opportunities for women to take on leadership positions and facilitate a greater understanding of girls’ and women’s potential.

“Limited opportunities generate more violence and discrimination against girls and women,” Andrea says. “My participation with the U.S. government was to go beyond statistics and share the realities of girls — how they live, how they feel and what they face.”

Andrea and the other young activists helped narrow down final topics for the U.S. government to address in its strategy, including new areas of focus like the intersection between gender and climate change, as well as online harassment. Now that steps have been taken to finalize the strategy — with local knowledge from the girls themselves — progress toward ending gender-based violence around the world can keep moving forward.

In Andrea’s own community, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to end violence against girls; El Salvador has been named the most unsafe country for women in Latin America and the Caribbean, and it has some of the highest rates of femicide in the region.

But Andrea has taken action to change things at home. She works with Plan to advocate for girls’ rights and raise awareness around the importance of representation in political leadership. She also shares what she’s learned with other girls in her community, teaching them how to defend their rights, as well as identify and report violence.

With more young leaders like Andrea at the helm of this work, real change for girls and young women is happening on a bigger and bigger scale.

“My hope for the future of gender equality in the world is that we can all enjoy our rights equally … where effort and work are recognized and valued regardless of gender,” Andrea says. “My hope is that women are not discriminated against or excluded, that we do not suffer violence in all its forms, that female genital mutilation is no longer practiced … and that in my country, we no longer have women victims of violence and femicide.”