10 December 2019: Foreign aid reboot must include focus on girls and gender equality

Media contact: Jane Gardner, 0438 130 905/ jane.gardner@plan.org.au

Girls must not be overlooked in the Federal Government’s review of Australia’s $4 billion foreign aid program, says Plan International Australia. The charity for girls’ equality today welcomed the Development Cooperation Strategy Review, however strongly urged the reviewers to focus on increasing funding for programs to support girls, particularly during adolescence.

“This review has been a long time coming and it presents a good opportunity for Australia to reaffirm its strong commitment to advancing gender equality through our international aid program,” Susanne Legena, CEO of Plan International Australia, said.

“Thanks to a more strategic focus on gender equality in Australia’s aid program since 2014, Australia has shaped a role for itself globally as an advocate and champion for the rights of women and girls. Our Pacific neighbours have made important progress in advancing women’s and girls’ rights, but they continue to face significant challenges in achieving gender equality.

“Our research shows that the Asia-Pacific is the only region in the world where teen pregnancy rates are rising. And we know that in the Solomon Islands, for example, only one in 10 girls will make it to Year 9.”

Women and girls continue to face an epidemic of violence in the Pacific, with some of the highest rates of gender based violence anywhere in the world. The landmark multi-agency Unseen and Unsafe report, launched in July this year, found that in the Pacific, one in four adolescent girls experience physical violence, and one in 10 experience sexual violence.

“We expect that gender equality and a stronger focus on girls will be a foundational part of the new strategy as Australia continues to strengthen its’ role as a champion for women and girls globally into the future,” Ms Legena said. “We have a responsibility to our region to help these girls learn, lead, decide and thrive.”

Plan International Australia’s Half a Billion Reasons report, released last year, made a strong case for investment in adolescent girls as a fundamental way to lift entire communities out of poverty.

“The reality is that adolescent girls are still not being adequately prioritised in investments or policies, either in Australia or internationally. Yet they are the most crucial group,” Ms Legena added.

“The United Nations Population Fund has recognised girls aged 10 as the key group whose potential, if unlocked, will create the economic and social conditions needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Helping the world’s most vulnerable people, particularly children, must be the foundation of Australia’s aid program. Through the review, we have an opportunity to ensure Australian aid can build a strong future for children and young people.”

Ms Legena said she looked forward to a consultative process for developing the new Development Cooperation Strategy.

“We encourage the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to include the views of young people both in Australia and in the countries that Australia has a presence in, in this review. A broad and inclusive review process will ensure that the new strategy is reflective of the future direction of Australia’s global leadership.”

FACTS ABOUT GIRLS (Source: Half a Billion Reasons report)

  • Pregnancy related complications are the leading cause of death for adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide. And every two seconds, a girl-child is married.
  • Over 120 million adolescent girls have been subject to sexual violence including rape.
  • Only 18% of adolescent girls in Papua New Guinea attend upper secondary school.
  • Adolescent girls and young women make up 76% of young people around the world who are not in school, training or employment.
  • In parts of Vanuatu, 75% of girls miss up to three days of school each month because they have their period.
  • There are close to 600 million adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 living in the world today with 500 million in developing countries.
  • Our neighbours in South Asia host 340 million adolescent girls and boys, and East Asia and the Pacific are home to 277 million adolescents.
  • In the Sub-Saharan region, where we provide the most in humanitarian aid, 10 to 19 year olds make up almost one quarter of the region’s population.

About Plan International Australia

Put simply, we’re the charity for girls’ equality. We tackle the root causes of poverty, support communities through crisis, campaign for gender equality, and help governments do what’s right for children and particularly for girls. We believe a better world is possible. An equal world; a world where all children can live happy and healthy lives, and where girls can take their rightful place as equals.