This International Women’s Day, on 8 March, we're celebrating girls making choices and making change. These girls are are the leaders and role models of the future; they are tomorrow's #WonderWomen.
The karate girl: Mishti
Mishti, 18, comes from a small village in Shariatpur district, Bangladesh. A born fighter, she’s determined to achieve her goal of becoming a karate teacher.
“I dream of becoming a karate coach and training girls in self-defence skills to help empower them as independent young women. As a karate teacher, I will help stop violence against women and earn my livelihood,” she says.
In 2012, Mishti discovered karate through Plan International’s Girl Power Project. She started taking part in training programmes and got involved in street drama performances, earning a little money to buy a mobile phone and giving the rest to her family.
She was also able to save up enough so that she can go back to college after previously dropping out because her family didn’t have enough money.
The visionary: Roksana
Roksana,18, from Bangladesh, knows what it means to scrape by. When she was in the tenth grade at school, her parents arranged her marriage so there would be one less mouth to feed.
She persuaded her parents to put the marriage off as her school exams were just around the corner. Maybe it was fate, but not long after, Roksana saw an ad for an eye doctor training course being organised for free under Plan International’s Girl Power Project. So she applied and was selected.
Roksana honed her skills and was appointed as a trainee nurse at a local eye hospital. Through her hard work, she soon snagged the role of ophthalmic assistant. Today, Roksana helps support her family and even has a place at the Open University to continue her education.
“I am grateful for the training I received. It has changed my life. I think this type of training programme can play a vital role in making many poor girls like me independent and empower them to stand on their own.”
The advocate: Nohelia
Nohelia, 14, from Ecuador, is all about education. Many children in her community face problems with schools closing, poor infrastructure, and lack of teachers and resources. A lot of children end up dropping out of school to earn a living.
“Children are not demonstrating their full potential,” says Nohelia, who is part of a youth assembly for young people determined to make their voices heard.
“We organise a lot of fun activities and conduct workshops and lectures in some communities to help children learn how to defend their rights. I learn a lot from other people,” she says.
Nohelia has participated in events all over the country and has even had a chance to talk with the president. “I would like all children to study. It was Nelson Mandela who said that education is the most powerful weapon. Through education, all children can reach their dreams,” she says. “Children are the present and the future, and our opinions are very important. If our rights are met, we can change the world.”
The bright spark: Jacqueline
Jacqueline,19, lives in Kampala, Uganda. When she was 11, she moved to the city, where she was forced to become a sex worker for 7 years.
“The youngest girl who worked there was 9,” reveals Jacqueline. “They wanted girls who were young as their bodies were free from diseases such as HIV.” Last year Jacqueline heard about the Plan International-supported PEVUS project, which works with young women to educate them on their rights and sexual health. It also provides tools to help them learn a skill.
“I’m now a peer educator. I visit young girls who are engaged in sex work to tell them about the dangers of it,” says Jacqueline, who is also a mum of one.
As well as looking out for other young women, Jacqueline is training to become an electrician.
“I chose electronics because no girls in our area are working as electricians,” she says. “I can earn money without suffering. We used to live in the slum areas so we could sell our bodies to get money, but now we can repair televisions and earn money.”
The survivor: Kevinne
Kevinne is 17 and lives in Couffo, Benin. When Kevinne was 14 she fell in love. When her parents found out they did not react as she hoped. Instead, they sent her away to marry an older man who had 3 wives. One month into her marriage, Kevinne realised she was pregnant. She tried to remain strong, but when she refused to do as her husband told her, he turned violent.
Kevinne has since returned home, but it hasn’t been easy. With the support of Plan International, Kevinne has been taught about the risks of teenage pregnancy and she is using her new knowledge to educate others. She has also taken control of her own destiny, proving that there is life beyond being a teenage mother. “With the help of Plan International I am now training to become a hairdresser. I want to make my own income and build a life for me and my children. In the future I want to graduate and open my own salon.”