Rena has faced many challenges in her 14 years – the death of her father and a congenital heart condition among them – but things became even more difficult when, in February 2023, Rena’s family was displaced by the earthquakes that hit Syria and Türkiye. Find out how Rena’s life has changed since then, as a result of the emergency response and recovery efforts in the region, delivered by Plan and local partners.

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Renewed hope for Rena

“They helped me believe in myself, speak up, and play with my classmates. My dreams are brighter, and I’m determined to face whatever comes my way with a smile.” 

14-year-old Rena’s outlook wasn’t always so sunny. Her father passed away four years ago, leaving her family in a tough financial situation and things became even more difficult when, in February 2023, two earthquakes hit Syria and Turkiye, causing 5,900 deaths, injuring more than 11,800 people, and leaving widespread devastation with more than 2,260 buildings reportedly destroyed, thousands of families displaced and vital services disrupted. 

“My mother and I had to leave our village due to the earthquake. Our financial situation is bad, and living in a run-down house just adds to the stress.” 

The challenges of displacement were further exacerbated by the fact that Rena suffers a congenital heart condition that not only impacts her physical health but also affects her self-esteem. “I have a heart condition that has left me with visible veins on my hand, making me feel different and isolated, especially at school. I always hide them so that no one can see them, but I am treated badly by those around me, and they always say, ‘how pitiful you are,’ and sometimes I’m faced with violence,” she shares. “I’m in pain because of my health, and the surgery to fix it seems like an impossible dream. I feel hopeless since my mother is not able to cover the cost of the surgery.” 

Over the past year, alongside partners, Plan International has been carrying out a two-phase emergency response.   

During phase one, our partners Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) distributed food parcels and hygiene kits, while ADRA focused on repairing WASH facilities and distributing hygiene, cleaning, and dignity kits.  

During phase 2, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) rehabilitated water networks and schools, continuing to deliver hygiene kits, while our partnership with Italy’s Association of Volunteers for International Service (AVSI), although not fully initiated, planned activities to provide psychosocial support, rehabilitate child-friendly spaces, distribute monthly cash for protection, conduct catch-up classes, and implement recreational and educational programmes. 

Part of this has been partnering with INTERSOS, an international humanitarian organisation, to implement a 12-month integrated Education in Emergencies (EiE) and child protection project. Focusing on Syria’s Hamra and Idleb Governorates, the project’s involves rehabilitating schools, providing furniture and teaching materials, offering remedial and self-learning classes, and establishing a mobile education team, to reach children whose education has been disrupted.  

Child protection is another important aspect of the project, and INTERSOS has disseminated information, provided psychological first aid, built capacity amongst teachers and parents, and offered psychosocial support for children and adults. 

Struggling with feelings of isolation, Rena was grateful for the opportunity to participate in psychological counselling, remedial classes and recreational activities offered by the project, “At school, I couldn’t connect with anyone. I cried a lot and felt like an outsider, avoiding speaking or playing like the other kids. It was lonely, and I longed for friends.” shares Rena.

“That’s when Plan International and INTERSOS came into my life, inviting me to activities that changed everything.” 

Rena was referred to a child protection case manager who facilitated her integration into a new social circle and helped increase her self-confidence. She has since made new friends, gained acceptance, and improved her social interactions 

“They helped me believe in myself, speak up, and play with my classmates. Now, I have wonderful friends, and we laugh and play together. They enrolled me in remedial classes, and they’ll refer me to get the medical care I need for my heart. 

“I’m grateful for their support; it makes me feel comfortable, and I trust that I can now speak and play with others. My dreams are brighter, and I’m determined to face whatever comes my way with a smile.” 

This disaster came at a time when Syrians were already struggling to survive, following 13 years of crisis, economic and political collapse, inflation, high rates of unemployment, a cholera outbreak, and yearly freezing winter conditions, with recent droughts further compounding access to livelihoods. Even before the earthquake, children and their families were struggling to make ends meet.

With these challenges intensifying further in the wake of the 2023 earthquakes, communities in Syria continue to need urgent and ongoing humanitarian and long-term assistance. Plan International will continue to scale up its support to the needs of vulnerable children, particularly adolescent girls and their families.


In Bangladesh we’re finding innovative ways to challenge gender norms in early childhood development, encouraging parents to share the responsibility of caring for their children, and supporting fathers to be emotionally and practically engaged in their child’s upbringing.

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Gender equality in Early Childhood

In Bangladesh we’re finding innovative ways to challenge gender norms in early childhood development, encouraging parents to share the responsibility of caring for their children, and supporting fathers to be emotionally and practically engaged in their child’s upbringing.

Around the world, social norms that see father’s taking a less active role in caring for children can perpetuate gender inequalities in the home and in society.

Our Gender Transformative Early Childhood Development project introduces a number of innovative community engagement modalities that aim to create a network of gender equality champions across broader society and within families, with special consideration for the unique cultural dynamics of Bangladeshi families and communities.

One of these initiatives is Fathers Café, which provides a community platform for men to discuss the changing roles of father’s in modern Bangladesh and to transform the tradition of low father participation in child-rearing and care. Another is Grandparents Groups which work with the older generation to promote male engagement in child-rearing and support women’s agency at the household level.

And of course, through our ongoing partnership with Sesame Workshop Bangladesh, we continue to deliver innovative media resources, including books, posters and puzzles, video content and a YouTube channel that champions gender transformative messages.

Already significant progress has been made in engaging parents and caregivers in nurturing care activities. Families are reporting that they feel better equipped to support their children, both boys and girls, to thrive.

Father’s engagement in childcare has increased at the household level and reports indicate that fathers are actively engaging in the nurturing of their loved ones, especially children aged 0 to 8. The data also indicates that other male members of the family, such as uncles, brothers, and grandfathers, are playing an active role in helping new mothers with infant care, demonstrating a marked shift in gender norms.

My perception underwent a remarkable transformation thanks to the Fathers Café,” shares Md. Kabir, a father and member of the project in Bangladesh.

“I participated in many sessions of Fathers’ Café, which helped me recognise the shared responsibility of both male and female members of the family in household chores and also child development. Now, I actively assist my wife with household duties, spending quality time with my children. My family bonding is now stronger and we are happier than before.”

Working as a passionate advocate for gender equality, I always try to spread awareness among my friends and neighbours, inspiring others to take the responsibilities of their family.”

The impact

160 early childhood centres were supported, benefitting 3,306 children.

4,560 parents reported improved nurturing care of their children.

100 Fathers Cafés were established and 2,155 fathers were reached in Barguna and 914 in Dhaka.

Fathers report they are actively engaging in household work, taking care of their wife and other female family members during pregnancy, and creating equal opportunity for boys and girls to thrive.

Fathers are also encouraging other fathers in their community to engage in household activities, child caring and spend more time with their families.

The media resources developed in partnership with Sesame Workshop Bangladesh (SWB), promoting positive parenting, and male engagement in nurturing care, were viewed 127,447 times and shared 5,553 shares times.

This program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and implemented in partnership with South Asia Partnership- Bangladesh (SAP-BD), SUROVI, and our technical partner, Sesame Workshop Bangladesh (SWB).


This International Day of Education we’re spotlighting how we’re providing alternative educational opportunities for girls and young women through our Supporting Girls in Crises initiative in Uganda, in collaboration with the Judith Neilson Foundation and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

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Supporting Girls in Crises in Uganda

January 24 is the International Day of Education, an important day set aside by the UN to celebrate the critical role of education for peace and development. As the number of conflicts and wars surge around the world, the theme for this year – “learning for lasting peace” – couldn’t be more urgent or important.  

In collaboration with the Judith Neilson Foundation and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), our Supporting Girls in Crises initiative in Uganda is committed to providing alternative educational opportunities for girls and young women. This program is designed to develop vocational and life skills that empower them financially, safeguard their rights, enhance their sexual and reproductive health, and support them in nurturing their children, when and if they choose to have them.  

With its dramatic mountain ranges, vast grasslands, winding rivers and green forests, Uganda is a country with an abundance of natural beauty, and great agricultural potential, however significant food insecurity, climate change, poverty and displacement makes life difficult for many here. 

Almost half of Uganda’s population is under the age of 15, representing one of the youngest populations in the world. Bordered by five countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan, Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa, with more than 1.5 million refugees having fled violence and conflict in their home countries to seek asylum. Uganda is the first African country to realise the longer-term rights of refugees, moving them from internally displaced persons camps to settlement areas integrated into host communities, where they have land, health, and work rights.  

In Uganda’s Adjumani district in the North-West however, there is little awareness of sexual reproductive health rights and adolescent girls and young women living in refugee settlements face high risks of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, and gender-based violence. 30% of girls give birth before reaching the age of 18, which sees them missing out on education and job prospects that could help them overcome poverty. These girls are also at high risk of dangerous pregnancies, violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation at the hands of their parents, husbands or families-in-law. Single mothers and sexual violence survivors continue to face stigma and discrimination.  

In partnership with the Judith Neilson Foundation, Plan International Australia’s Supporting Girls in Crises initiative is supporting girls and young women living in refugee settlements and neighbouring host communities by providing access to practical education, and strengthening maternal and sexual health services, which unlock opportunities for economic advancement of women and girls, and nurture positive cultural norms within their communities.  

The initiative goes beyond just meeting immediate needs, and is focused on facilitating long-term change and a more equitable future for girls and young women in Uganda. 

How a non-traditional approach to education is empowering girls and young women in Uganda 

When we talk about education, the conventional image is that of traditional classrooms, books, and scholarships. However, in the face of protracted crises, such as those experienced by girls and young women in the refugee settlements of Uganda, there’s a pressing demand for education that meaningfully impacts their lives. This necessitates a focus on practical education in areas like financial literacy, parenting education to equip young families, and sexual and reproductive health education to ensure their wellbeing and informed choices in these critical areas.   

With programs designed by and for girls, we’re working in Uganda’s Adjumani refugee settlement to help improve access to services that empower local and refugee adolescent girls, and challenge the cultural norms and practices that lead to early marriage, unplanned pregnancy and violence against women. Our vision is for girls to live in safe and supportive communities where they enjoy equal rights and opportunities.  

The programs:

Sexual and reproductive health education 

Quarterly community health outreaches provide young girls and boys with sex education, advice and screening. This included information on HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy testing, condom distribution, cervical cancer screening, and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations for girls between 10 and 13.   

Education for financial empowerment 

Early pregnancy results in girls dropping out of school. But youth savings groups can provide teenage girls and young mums the chance to create decent livelihoods, and build autonomy. Members contribute savings to the group then each young woman can take small low-interest loans to start or grow their business. They pay interest which helps to build group savings and fund more loans in the future. Members also learn valuable skills for running their own business.   

 

Keeping her dream alive 

Ruth didn’t want to drop out of school, but the 20-year-old refugee from South Sudan says she had no choice when she couldn’t afford the fees. “After I left school, I was at home, and life became very hard,” she shares.

The settlement where she lives, in the Adjumani district in the north of Uganda, is now home to some 15,000 people (including those who live in the host community).

Ruth has eight siblings, three of whom are already married due to the family’s economic situation. She wanted to help her family, so she joined a business training program. Today, she is the proud owner of a successful small business, selling charcoal, dried fish, tomatoes, scissors, padlocks and dresses – a real corner store.

“I was able to borrow some money, and I started my business,” she explains. “When I started to make a profit, I repaid the money plus interest. I understand profit, loss and interest and other things that go into running a business.”

Her early success emboldened her to borrow more money to expand. “I thought to myself, ‘I am capable; I am strong,’” she says. Ruth has since repaid that loan, which makes her feel “happy and excited” that she can support her parents, buy food for the family and pay the school fees for her younger siblings. “I am now living happily. I’m shining and proud.”

Ruth credits her success to the mentors she met in the Youth Savings Group she joined. She hopes to also be a mentor one day. “I want others in my community to become empowered and move on with their lives,” she says.

“My next step is to continue growing my business. I may get my mom to run this one while I start another. I also want to help my younger siblings finish school, and maybe I’ll return to school to study social work and social administration, because I like counselling people.”

The programs:

Strengthening systems to protect girls 

Workers trained adolescent girls and young mums on how to recognise and report child protection issues such as child marriage, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. Reporting channels such as suggestion boxes, toll free lines, and involving child protection committees and cultural/religious leaders were set up and promoted to other girls.  

Parenting education for young couples 

Targeted learning sessions educate young couples and their parents on the rights of women and girls, as well as sexual and reproductive health issues. Follow up visits with participants indicate that many young mums have improved relationships with their partners because of the sessions.  

 

Learning how to share the parenting load in emergencies 

Prossy and Dominic were not prepared when they found out they were about to become parents – “I was terrified when I learnt about my pregnancy. I wasn’t ready for it”, says 20-year-old Prossy.   

Like many young couples living in their refugee settlement, Prossy and Dominic didn’t feel they had the resources, knowledge or skills to care for a child, especially when facing their own difficulties, dealing with the effects of displacement.   

Prossy’s biggest fear was that Dominic would abandon her, and Dominic had very traditional views on caretaking roles – that is, before the couple took part in Plan International’s Parenting Under Pressure educational program, “Before my participation in the parenting sessions, I thought the responsibility of child care was entirely for women and could not support my wife in it,” shares Dominic.    

Prossy and Dominic were among 100 young mothers and their partners from Boroli and Pagirinya refugee settlements, who participated in the Parenting Under Pressure sessions conducted by project mentors in their village. “When I received the news that Plan International would conduct parenting sessions for couples with children below the age of 8 years, I wasted no time,” says Prossy.   

The program supports parents in emergency settings and aims to empower parents and caregivers of newborn babies through to 8 year-old children to provide nurturing care that supports their children’s healthy development and well-being, including a focus on child protection and opportunities for play and learning.   

The sessions include lessons on responsive caregiving, positive parent/caregiver-child interaction, stress responses and management strategies, and help to strengthen their parenting skills and improve their confidence as parents and caregivers.  

Relationships between mothers, fathers, and other female and male caregivers are also strengthened, and men are encouraged to take a more active role in caregiving, improving gender equality and social cohesion in communities.   

“I thank Plan international for taking us through the sessions,” says Dominic. “I am now fully engaged in childcare. I can carry the child when the mother is engaged, play with her and clean her when she is dirty. Our lives have become more cheerful. Now fathers in my community are actively engaged in caregiving which supports gender equality, thanks to the sessions.”  

In the past year, the Adolescent Girls in Crisis (AGiC) project has supported 3,344 people, including 1,235 girls and 866 young women, across two refugee settlements in northern Uganda.

Participants in 25 Youth Savings Groups study business skills such as record keeping, branding, market assessment and business planning.

They also learn about their social and economic rights, which decreases their risks of gender-based violence and early and forced marriage.The results? To date, 157 adolescent girls and young mothers are now engaged in their businesses, and 81% of them say that the training has helped them manage their finances.

The project also created four Adolescent Girls and Young Mothers (AGYM) safe spaces, where participants can access protection services. To date, 109 survivors of violence have accessed non-food items and have been referred for further support.

In addition, 41 health workers have been trained in adolescent-friendly services. This has helped 3,936 adolescents access sexual and reproductive health services.

The Adolescent Girls in Crisis program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), and the Judith Neilson Foundation.


Plan international Australia works with partners to harness the power of International Women’s Day to drive action and raise vital funds to support girls and women around the world in some of the most challenging environments to ensure every child, no matter where they are from, has the right to safety and equality.

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International Women’s Day 2024

How you can partner
with us on March 8th

Fostina, 27, Zambia.

Fostina, 27, Zambia.

On Friday 8th March 2024 the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. A day to unite and challenge stereotypes of women, broaden perceptions of what is possible and celebrate women’s achievements.

Plan international Australia will work with you to harness the power of International Women’s Day to drive action and raise vital funds to support girls and women around the world in some of the most challenging environments to ensure every child, no matter where they are from, has the right to safety and equality.

Why We Exist

Plan International is a global development and humanitarian organisation, with a special focus on girls and children. We work with over 55,000 communities, across 85 countries, advancing children’s rights and equality for girls through education, protection, empowerment and emergency support.

We believe in the power and potential of every child but know this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination.

And it is girls who are most affected.

For over 85 years, we have supported children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. We enable children to prepare for and respond to crises and adversity and drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.

We won’t stop until we are all equal.

But we cannot do this alone…

Solitha, 27, Tanzania.

Solitha, 27, Tanzania.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

We are asking brands and businesses across Australia, to come together on International Women’s Day to #CountHerIn by raising vital funds to accelerate progress for the next generation of women.

This could be done by:

  • Creating a bespoke product to sell around IWD
  • Donating a percentage of product sales for the week or month of IWD
  • Making a one-off donation
  • Engaging employees to fundraise

We have a dedicated team ready to support you and your team to make it as simple as possible to join the campaign. Our IWD toolkit comes with prepared campaign assets, imagery and content to use across your own channels to connect with your customers and clients through a shared cause.

Evita, 13, Solomon Islands.

Evita, 13, Solomon Islands.

12 million girls are forced to marry as children every year – every 2 seconds.

Every 10 minutes, one adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.

12.5 million girls could be prevented from completing their education due to climate change by 2025.

We can’t wait for opportunities;
we must actively seek them,
and when they aren’t readily
available, let’s create them.

Let’s empower ourselves and
each other, and build a world
where gender doesn’t limit
our potential.

It’s a journey worth embarking
on, and together, we can make
it happen.”

Akriti, 21 – Nepal

Your contribution will provide life changing support for girl’s across the world by ensuring that even in some of the most challenging conditions, they will have access to safety, education and dignity.

$10,000
could help girls continue their education during emergencies.

$15,000
could help girls manage their periods with dignity and continue to attend school by providing materials to build 4 girl-friendly bathroom blocks in schools.

$20,000
could help boost girls school attendance and keep children fed by providing 2400 students with daily school meals for a month.

Papinelle raised $2,500 through a bespoke collection dedicated
to IWD.

The Body Shop donated $1 from every transaction to Plan International over the weekend of IWD.

They then went on to donate $5 from every purchase of The Body Shop’s Shea Nourishing Body Lotion.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2024.

Eunice, 18, Mozambique.

Eunice, 18, Mozambique.

WILL YOU JOIN THE MOVEMENT AND #CountHerIn?

If you want to get involved, get in touch via email:

[email protected]


Plan international Australia works with partners to harness the power of International Women’s Day to drive action and raise vital funds to support girls and women around the world in some of the most challenging environments to ensure every child, no matter where they are from, has the right to safety and equality. Find out how you can get involved!

View the story

International Women’s Day 2024

How you can partner
with us on March 8th

Fostina, 27, Zambia.

Fostina, 27, Zambia.

On Friday 8th March 2024 the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. A day to unite and challenge stereotypes of women, broaden perceptions of what is possible and celebrate women’s achievements.

Plan international Australia will work with you to harness the power of International Women’s Day to drive action and raise vital funds to support girls and women around the world in some of the most challenging environments to ensure every child, no matter where they are from, has the right to safety and equality.

Why We Exist

Plan International is a global development and humanitarian organisation, with a special focus on girls and children. We work with over 55,000 communities, across 85 countries, advancing children’s rights and equality for girls through education, protection, empowerment and emergency support.

We believe in the power and potential of every child but know this is often suppressed by poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination.

And it is girls who are most affected.

For over 85 years, we have supported children’s rights from birth until they reach adulthood. We enable children to prepare for and respond to crises and adversity and drive changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using our reach, experience and knowledge.

We won’t stop until we are all equal.

But we cannot do this alone…

Solitha, 27, Tanzania.

Solitha, 27, Tanzania.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

We are asking brands and businesses across Australia, to come together on International Women’s Day to #CountHerIn by raising vital funds to accelerate progress for the next generation of women.

This could be done by:

  • Creating a bespoke product to sell around IWD
  • Donating a percentage of product sales for the week or month of IWD
  • Making a one-off donation
  • Engaging employees to fundraise

We have a dedicated team ready to support you and your team to make it as simple as possible to join the campaign. Our IWD toolkit comes with prepared campaign assets, imagery and content to use across your own channels to connect with your customers and clients through a shared cause.

Evita, 13, Solomon Islands.

Evita, 13, Solomon Islands.

Eunice, 18, Mozambique.

Eunice, 18, Mozambique.

Barwaaqe, 19, Somalia.

Barwaaqe, 19, Somalia.

Salimata, 12, Mali.

Salimata, 12, Mali.

12 million girls are forced to marry as children every year – every 2 seconds

Every 10 minutes, one adolescent girl dies as a result of violence 

12.5 million girls could be prevented from completing their education due to climate change by 2025.

We can’t wait for opportunities;
we must actively seek them,
and when they aren’t readily
available, let’s create them.

Let’s empower ourselves and
each other, and build a world
where gender doesn’t limit
our potential.

It’s a journey worth embarking
on, and together, we can make
it happen.”

Akriti, 21 – Nepal