A better normal:
Girls call for a revolutionary reset

Girls are taking their vision to the United Nations -
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In September all member states of the United Nations will come together, as they do every year, to work through issues of international importance. This year COVID-19, and recovery and rebuilding, will be a core focus.

The voices of young people, and particularly girls, must be included in these discussions.

Our pre-COVID-19 world undeniably failed girls and young women, in all their diversities. It failed to protect them, empower them, and it failed to listen to them. These failures have been exacerbated by the pandemic - with girls being removed from school, experiencing widening inequality, weaknesses in health, welfare and education systems and heightened levels of violence and child marriage.

Youth in Australia and Vietnam have conducted research that shows young people, particularly girls and young women, are hearing, seeing and experiencing these challenges. But their research also shows that young people know what a better world looks like. And they know a better world is possible.

In September all member states of the United Nations will come together, as they do every year, to work through issues of international importance. This year COVID-19, and recovery and rebuilding, will be a core focus.

The voices of young people, and particularly girls, must be included in these discussions.

Our pre-COVID-19 world undeniably failed girls and young women, in all their diversities. It failed to protect them, empower them, and it failed to listen to them. These failures have been exacerbated by the pandemic - with girls being removed from school, experiencing widening inequality, weaknesses in health, welfare and education systems and heightened levels of violence and child marriage.

Youth in Australia and Vietnam have conducted research that shows young people, particularly girls and young women, are hearing, seeing and experiencing these challenges. But their research also shows that young people know what a better world looks like. And they know a better world is possible.

Will you stand with girls around the world to ask that their voices and needs be heard by leaders at the UN General Assembly?

To all members of the United Nations General Assembly,

On the occasion of the 75th session UN General Assembly, we are writing to you on behalf of girls and young women around the world who have shared their visions for a better normal.

Our pre-COVID-19 world undeniably failed girls and young women, in all their diversities. It failed to protect us, empower us, listen to us.

These failures have been exacerbated by the global pandemic:

  • Girls have been removed from schools and are unlikely to return.
  • The divide between those with and those without is growing.
  • Weaknesses within our health systems, our welfare systems, our education systems have been revealed and deepened.
  • We have experienced heightened levels of domestic and family violence, and increasing levels of child, early and forced marriage and unions.

Our research shows that young people are hearing, seeing and experiencing these challenges. But we also know what a better world looks like. And we know a better world is possible.

Girls and young women from 99 countries around the world shared these dreams with us:

  • Dreams of safety and freedom, of security and agency.
  • Dreams of a life centred around passions and peace, not solely work or productivity.
  • Dreams of a sustainable future with respect for the land, passed down from generation to generation, and empowering Indigenous voices in this fight for conservation.
  • Dreams of centring marginalised voices in everything we do, and especially in policy and decision making.

Our dreams are aspirational, but they’re also attainable. We’ve identified the changes, the policies and the initiatives that will help achieve our collective vision of a more equitable, peaceful and hopeful world.

We are writing to you as leaders and power-holders, to ask that you consider our recommendations, and work with us to transform our societies, so that together we can build a better normal for everyone.

In solidarity,

Phuong Anh, Quynh Anh, Angelica, Dominique, Maya, Mayela, Laila and Evie

Plan International youth leaders from Vietnam and Australia

What are girls’ visions for a better normal?

A group of 22 young women in Australian and Vietnam lead a research project to answer this question – with engagement from 1325 girls in 99 countries. This year, our Youth Activist Series (YAS) is supported by The Body Shop Australia to help launch the inspiring visions of Australia’s future leaders and change-makers. Girls and young women have valuable, passionate and hopeful insights and a right to be consulted in constructing their futures, including their voices is essential to make sure that the world we rebuild is fair, equitable and does not repeat past mistakes.

From the girls’ report

COVID-19 is unlike anything we’ve experienced before. It raises questions, challenges and uncertainty; but equally, we believe it presents opportunities for change.

The pandemic has exposed, revealed, deepened and created significant cracks in our systems, institutions and leadership. As the world rebuilds in the wake of this crisis, we cannot simply return to ‘normal’.

We envision a world in which everyone constantly strives to create the best world possible.

A world where everyone feels valued and heard, and free to do what they love.

A world surrounded by kindness, peace, opportunity and acceptance for each other, with equality in leadership and the protection of rights.

A transformation of the way society works to truly coexist with the Earth, leaving an equitable and hopeful.

Our visions presented in this report are aspirational, but also achievable – we need a systems change, and we have ideas for what that should look like. We have seen through this pandemic how possible it is for governments and other power-holders to enact a reformist agenda.

We want that agenda to be informed by what we have to say, by our ideas and views; because without an equity lens, you recreate inequalities.

Will you stand with us?

We want to thank The Body Shop Australia for their ongoing commitment to empowering young women, and helping to amplify their voices, by supporting the 2020 YAS program and the production of this research study.

The Body Shop and Youth Activist Series 2020

Authorised by S. Legena, Plan International Australia, 60 City Road, Southbank, VIC 3001