August 5 2020: The road to post-COVID: girls to take their vision for a ‘better normal’ to the United Nations

A ground-breaking international girl-led research project involving more than 1060 girls and young women from 99 countries has mapped out their visions of a better, more equitable and more peaceful post-pandemic world.

The resulting report, A Better Normal: Girls Call for a Revolutionary Reset, has launched today and will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly in September by girls from Australia and Vietnam.

Worldwide, the COVID-19 crisis has seen a stripping back of girls’ rights as millions face child marriage, an end to their education and as lockdowns continue, a sharp rise in violence and teen pregnancy.

Despite the vast humanitarian challenge the pandemic has brought, girls remain optimistic to use the ‘global pause’ as a moment to create real, lasting and profound change on a number of fronts.

The entirely girl-led research was led by 22 young women aged between 15 to 25 in Australia and Vietnam, with support from the charity for girls’ equality Plan International Australia.

Plan International Australia youth activist Carla Sieck, 24, said she was looking forward to a world with more compassion. “The biggest change I want to see in a world post-COVID is one where power and privilege is used for common good, rather than for personal interests,” Ms Sieck said.

“I want to live in a world where everyone understands that your reality is not the same as mine and we all have a duty to make the situation better.”

Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said girls are well-placed to lead significant change on behalf of their generation and generations to come.

“There is no doubt COVID-19 has exposed, revealed, deepened and created significant cracks in our systems, institutions and leadership. As the world rebuilds in the wake of this crisis, do we want to simply return to ‘normal’ or can we create something better, together?

“Our world before this pandemic was one that repeatedly and undeniably failed girls and young women. To create a better normal, we have to listen to the experiences and ideas of girls and young women, instead of ignoring them.

“Girls are powerful agents for change, there is no denying this, and when they have a voice and people start to listen, amazing things happen.

“This report is a really clever roadmap with practical solutions on how we build that new world hand in hand with young people.

“Governments and authorities all around the world are considering how to build back better and the call from girls and young women couldn’t be clearer: they demand to be heard and included in decision-making processes, have power over the issues that affect their lives and play an active role in creating a more just and sustainable world.”

Girls and young women have created six visions for a better post-COVID world and focus tested these with their peers in 99 countries. Of those who took part:

  1. 98% want Gender Justice
  2. 98% want Climate Justice
  3. 96% want Protection of Rights and Access to Resources
  4. 95% want Freedom to be Human
  5. 94% want Inclusion and Equality in Power
  6. 94% want Educated Citizens of the World

 Some of the many recommendations to achieve these goals, include:

  • Providing fee free education for all and invest at least 20% of national budgets in public education.
  • Closing the digital divide by ensuring free universal access to the internet so everyone can access online learning resources when needed, with a particular focus on closing the digital gender divide that sees fewer girls able to access information online.
  • Making tertiary education more accessible for all, for instance by reducing fees, and providing support and services during study.
  • Decision-makers should institutionalise participatory processes for girls and young women, in all our diversities, at different levels (local, regional and national), so that their experiences are accurately represented and solutions designed for us are co-designed.
  • Encouraging boys and men to share the burden of family care and household work, which too often falls onto girls’ shoulders
  • Ensure the minimum wage is a liveable wage, and all workers - including migrant workers - in all careers are respected and supported.
  • Co-design and implement supportive laws and policies to enable girls and women to leverage digital technology to include their voices in public decision making, as well as enabling their direct participation in processes.