Girl activists fear for safety, making gains at huge personal cost, says new Plan International report

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October 2023

In a world where girls are courageously leading movements for change, a startling revelation emerges: One in five girl and young woman activists (17%) have feared for their safety while carrying out their work, according to new research by global development and humanitarian organization Plan International. 

The study – Turning the World Around: Girl and young women activists leading the fight for equality – involved more than a thousand girl activists from 26 countries, including Canada, ages 15 to 24, and details the multitude of challenges girls face as they campaign for change.

Launched ahead of International Day of the Girl on October 11, the global research highlights the experiences of more than a thousand girl and young woman activists – one of the biggest surveys of its kind – and provides recommendations to increase girls’ participation in activism and social issues.

One in 10 (9%) have faced threats of physical violence as a result of their work, while 15% have experienced online harassment and abuse. The single biggest barrier to girls’ activism is a shortage of funding, named by more than half of girls surveyed (54%) as the main factor holding their activism efforts back.

Further research in Canada was conducted focusing on young women ages 18 to 24, which found that 63% of young women in Canada are actively engaged in various forms of activism. However, over half of young women (53%) fear for their personal safety (such as online trolling, bullying and physical violence) when championing their causes.
Furthermore, one third of young women (34%) have decreased their participation in activism around social justice issues due to rising costs of living.

Despite these challenges, the global report – which is the latest release in Plan International’s annual State of the World’s Girls Report series – found that nearly all girl activists (95%) say that campaigning has had a positive effect on their lives, making them feel proud, powerful and capable.

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