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Reasons to be Hopeful About 2017

As we close out one year and begin another, it is a time for reflection in the Plan International community. Let’s take a look back at the moments of 2016 that make us optimistic about 2017.

Governments promise to leave no one behind

Plan is ensuring that countries keep their promise to implement the Global Goals.

January 2016 marked the start of the 15-year implementation of the Global Goals.

The Global Goals provide an ambitious, universal framework that is being used to create United Nations member states’ policies until 2030. They prioritize “leaving no one behind” as countries change and develop.

If governments implement these goals as they have promised, they will transform the lives of the most marginalized children and bring equality for girls.

Plan is influencing the implementation of the Global Goals to ensure commitments are translated into robust actions for children's rights.

Momentum builds against child marriage in Africa

In January 2016, the minimum legal age for marriage in Zimababwe was raised to 18.

In January 2016, the minimum legal age for marriage was raised to 18 in Zimbabwe. The ruling followed a year-long case involving two former child brides, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, who campaigned to change the existing law.

“We welcome this milestone judgement,” said Plan Zimbabwe Country Director Lennart Reinius. “[Plan] has worked hard to ensure social and policy change so we can eradicate all forms of child marriage.”

In June, a model law on eradicating child marriage was developed by a forum of 14 Southern African countries.

“It will address the gaps in laws that weaken the mechanisms available to law enforcement agencies,” said Roland Angerer, Plan Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa.

When combined with changes in attitude at the community level, national laws can bring an end to child marriage and give girls the ability to make key decisions about their lives and health.

Voodoo convent children go back to school

Plan helped more than 300 children in Benin return back to school.

In Benin, children who are ill can be confined to Voodoo convents for up to seven years with no formal education.

Plan is working alongside local partners and Voodoo priests to help children return to their communities and schools after just three months. More than 300 children have been released so far. Of those, 280 have returned to school and 30 have started apprenticeships.

“We were able to convince chief priests that children need to go to school,” said Plan Benin’s Michel Kanhonou. “We can't forbid them from going into convents – it is part of the Voodoo culture. Before this practice hopefully ends, our main focus is to protect children who live there, [and help them] realize their rights and go to school.”

Partnership pushes governments to deliver on gender equality

Plan International realizes that having data is vital to monitoring gender goals.

In May, Plan launched a new data and research partnership alongside leading development and private sector organizations to hold governments accountable to promises to achieve gender equality by 2030.

“In many countries, the data we need on girls doesn’t exist," said Plan International’s Chief Executive Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen. “With clear information we can identify where action needs to be taken.”

The initiative, supported by Plan, the International Women’s Health Coalition, KPMG, ONE Campaign, and Women Deliver, will utilize existing and new data to monitor the gender-related Global Goals. It will also ensure women’s and girls’ development and rights remain firmly on the agenda.

“This new tool will ensure decision-makers are doing all they can to achieve equality for women and girls,” said Albrectsen.

Syrian refugee children start new lives

Plan International is helping Syrian refugees in Turkey learn the Turkish language.

Turkey shelters more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, almost half of whom are children. Only one in four of the children living in host communities go to school.

Alongside local partners, Plan is supporting children to start school in Turkey by helping them understand the local language. Although lessons are taken in Turkish, each class has a Syrian co-teacher to translate the learning materials and teachers’ instructions. Plan is also providing safe spaces for children to play, interact, and overcome any stress they have experienced.

“We are learning and playing here at school,” said 6-year-old Adnan. “I have many friends here. I love my teachers.”

Despite the upheaval these children have faced, this project is helping them start a new life in Turkey. Plan will continue to support children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis, and the organization is also working through partners in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Germany to keep children safe and in school.

Girls’ Takeover and #SheWill Campaigns show power of girls’ rights movement



Girls called on governments to remove the barriers that deny millions their rights by staging takeovers in more than 50 countries on International Day of the Girl in October.

In Paraguay, the Vice President’s position was taken over, along with 11 national ministries, while government ministers were also taken over in Uganda, Cambodia, Brazil, and Sierra Leone. Media outlets and major corporations were run by girls in several countries including the U.S., Norway, the Philippines, and Guinea-Bissau.

Additionally, Plan donors and supporters in the United States and abroad made their voices heard by telling the world that when a girl is empowered, #SheWill accomplish incredible things.

"We are changing the face of gender roles,” said Etain, who acted as the mayor of Dublin for the day. “Girls everywhere need to be empowered to take positions of power.”

Leaders commit to make cities safe for girls

Plan International USA is ensuring that the New Urban Agenda continues to recognize girls rights.

The New Urban Agenda shaping the future development of cities, which was adopted by United Nations member states in October, explicitly recognized the rights and needs of girls.

It will guarantee girls’ safety, access to public spaces, and their ability to move freely in cities. It also states that girls should be actively involved in urban governance, including decision-making processes that impact their safety. It will also emphasize urban sanitation.

Before the New Urban Agenda was signed, Plan delivered a petition signed by thousands of people from more than 90 countries calling on governments to improve the safety of cities for girls. Plan also shared recommendations from the Urban Program, which puts girls’ voices at the center of city planning to ensure their specific needs are met.

“The New Urban Agenda is a breakthrough,” said Alex Munive, Plan International Global Girls’ Rights Programming Advisor. “For the first time, girls have been recognized as a unique group that needs protection. If implemented properly, it has the potential to transform the lives of girls.”

Real change for 100 million girls

Plan will influence changes in laws to achieve large-scale improvements in girls’ lives.

In November, Plan set a bold new ambition for the next five years. Plan will work with children, partners, and supporters to take action so that 100 million girls learn, lead, decide, and thrive.

Addressing the root causes of gender inequality, from the global level to the community level, is at the heart of the new vision.

Plan will influence changes in laws to achieve large-scale improvements in girls’ lives while also working in communities to change the attitudes and behaviors that deny girls their rights.

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