See which key moments from 2016 make us optimistic about the future for children’s rights in 2017.

Governments promise to leave no one behind

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Children at a Plan International-supported school in Ashanti region, Ghana.

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

The Global Goals provide an ambitious, universal framework which is being used to create UN member states’ policies until 2030. They prioritise ‘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 marginalised children and bring equality for girls.

Plan International is influencing the implementation of the Global Goals by governments in the countries where we work to ensure commitments are translated into robust actions for children's rights.  

Momentum builds against child marriage in Africa

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Children march for girls' rights at the launch of Plan International's Because I am a Girl campaign in Uganda.

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

The ruling followed a year-long case involving 2 former child brides, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, who campaigned to change the existing law.

Plan International Zimbabwe Country Director, Lennart Reinius, said: “We welcome this milestone judgement. Plan International 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 agreed by a forum of 14 Southern African countries. It will guide the individual countries as they develop their own laws. “It will address the gaps in laws which weaken the mechanisms available to law enforcement agencies”, said Roland Angerer, Plan International Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa.

When combined with changes in attitude at 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

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Eric, 13, was recently released from a voodoo convent in Benin.

In Benin, children who are ill can be confined to Voodoo convents for up to 7 years with no formal education.

Plan International is working alongside local partners and Voodoo priests to help children return to their communities and schools after just 3 months. Over 300 children have been released so far. Of those, 280 have returned to school and 30 have started apprenticeships.

Plan International Benin’s Michel Kanhonou says, “We were able to convince chief priests that children need to go to school. 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, realise their rights and help them go to school.”

Eric 13, who recently went back to school says, “I felt so happy. I am able to go to school and learn again.”

Partnership pushes governments to deliver on gender equality

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Jackleen, 4, is starting pre-school soon with her friends in Malawi. She normally eats just one meal a day.

In May, Plan International launched a new data and research partnership alongside leading development and private sector organisations to ensure governments are held to account on 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 International, the International Women’s Health Coalition, KPMG, ONE Campaign and Women Deliver, will utilise 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

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Children at a summer school for Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Turkey shelters over 2.5 million Syrian refugees, almost half of whom are children. Only 1 in 4 of the children living in host communities go to school.

Alongside local partners, we are 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. We are also providing safe spaces for children to play, interact and overcome any stress they have experienced.

Adnan, 6, says: “We are learning and playing here at school. I have many friends here. I love my teachers.”

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

Girls’ Takeover shows 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 Norway, USA, the Philippines and Guinea-Bissau.

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

Plan International CEO Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen said, “The scale of the takeovers shows that the Because I am a Girl movement is building momentum. On days like these, you feel that gender equality is not only possible, it’s inevitable.”

Disaster preparations save lives 

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Children take part in hazard drill in coastal community affected by Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines.

Super Typhoon Haima struck the Philippines on 19 October. The diameter and eye of Typhoon Haima were twice the size of Typhoon Haiyan which killed thousands of people in 2013.

However, due to pre-emptive evacuations and other preparedness measures, many lives were saved and the impact of the storm was greatly reduced. A day after Typhoon Haima had struck, families returned to their houses from evacuation centres.

“The change of behaviour in terms of disaster preparedness has saved a lot of lives and caused less destruction,” said Dennis O’Brien, Plan International Philippines County Director.

With an increasing number of natural disasters occurring, the preparedness efforts of communities like these in the Philippines prove that simple but well executed measures have the ability to save thousands of lives all over the world.

Leaders commit to make cities safe for girls

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My, 17, is a member of a youth media group in Hanoi, Vietnam, supported by Plan International. The group developed a set of comic books dealing with theft, harassment and violence on city buses.

The New Urban Agenda shaping the future development of cities, which was adopted by UN member states in October, explicitly recognised 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.

Before the New Urban Agenda was signed, Plan International delivered a petition signed by thousands of people from over 90 countries calling on governments to improve the safety of cities for girls. We also shared recommendations from our Urban Programme which puts girls’ voices at the centre 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 Adviser. “For the first time, girls have been recognised as a unique group that need protection. If implemented properly, it has the potential to transform the lives of girls.”

Real change for 100 million girls

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Children march for girls' rights at the launch of Plan International's Because I am a Girl campaign in Uganda.

In November, Plan International set a bold new ambition for the next 5 years. We will work with children, our partners and supporters to take action so that 100 million girls learn, lead, decide and thrive.

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

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

At current rates it will take decades to achieve gender equality. Through our new ambition, we are working at all levels to make real changes to girls’ lives throughout the world.


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