An example of the ANCP partnership is the Safer Cities for Girls program, which Plan International Australia runs in Solomon Islands and Vietnam.
Developed with partner organisations UN-Habitat and Women in Cities International, the goal of Safer Cities for Girls is to build safe, accountable, and inclusive cities with and for adolescent girls.
A core part of this program is the Champions of Change curriculum, which involves a series of activities for boys and girls that are delivered through youth groups and schools, as well as with key community members like transport authorities and police.
While Champions of Change clubs give girls the tools to protect themselves and others from sexual harassment and the confidence to use and enjoy public spaces, the program also teaches boys to understand what kind of behaviour is unacceptable, encouraging boys and girls to see one another as equals.
Today, cities are home to 54% of the world’s population, and for the first time in history, there are more people living in cities than in rural areas.
But despite the economic and social opportunities that urban living can offer, for young women and girls, living in the city comes at a cost. Around the globe, they face high levels of sexual harassment, exploitation and gender discrimination in urban environments, affecting their everyday experience of city life and causing them to feel unsafe and unwelcome in spaces they have every right to be.
In Vietnam, the problem is especially severe – in Hanoi, 30% of girls have experienced sexual harassment on public transport, and 40% of girls aged 13-18 feel unsafe when using public transport, with the majority of those feeling unable to speak up when they are in danger.
When she was just 16, Lan was harassed three or four times a week.
“Most days when I’m coming home from school, boys and men on motorbikes catcall or tease me.” She says. “Sometimes they try to touch me too. If I’m alone, I feel very very scared.”
One day a man followed Lan home from school. “He tried to touch me. I knew that he had bad intentions. I started to feel scared. I shouted out and tried to go as fast as I could to escape from him.”
When Lan first crossed paths with Plan International, she described herself as timid, but that has changed since joining one of our Champions of Change clubs.Before I joined the Champions of Change club, I’d be scared or cry if I was harassed. I wouldn’t tell anyone or share my worries. Now I know I can be open with others and get help. I’m confident, I believe in myself, and know that men don’t have the right to scare or harass me.
What has Safer Cities for Girls achieved in Vietnam?
- So far 4,623 class sessions have been held on anti-sexual harassment and how to seek help when facing or witnessing gender based violence, which have been attended by 67,424 students (including 30,677 girls and 36,747 boys) between the ages of 6-18.
- 1,541 teachers from 55 schools have taken part in training so that they can conduct lessons for their pupils.
- 152 transit staff from 18 bus companies in Hanoi, have been trained using curriculum from the Safer Cities project.
- Bystanders are being encouraged to intervene too, with anti-harassment messages on buses, ticket booth and bus stops seen by hundreds of thousands of passengers a day.
- Male passengers have been targeted with a series of live radio broadcasts, posters and magazines making clear what behaviour was unacceptable and why.
- The program also works with the Government and law enforcement to make sure sexual abuse is taken seriously whenever it’s reported, and make sure women and girls get the best protection possible.
Plan International Vietnam is working with the Gender Bureau to integrate the Safer Cities model in their strategy for the next five years, bringing it to all cities in Vietnam. Plan International’s training curriculum for Government staff and transit staff has been widely shared with all 63 provinces in Vietnam and have been applied in some of their training.
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