Feb 23, 2018

"We Can Stop Child Marriage"

When born into extreme poverty, a child is often given little to no opportunity for educational development and lacks access to health services. In Nepal, to make ends meet, a child may be married at a young age to a much older man, or may move to urban areas for work and face an increased risk of trafficking. As one of seven children, Riva had minimal support from her family to attend school regularly. At 14, Riva’s parents began searching for her groom as they believed her marriage will help support their family.

Exploring Better Options

In her community, Riva now participates in Plan’s BLOOM (Better Life Options and Opportunities Model) club where she learns about goal setting, reproductive health, child rights, hygiene, and has also gained the skills and confidence necessary to speak in large groups and advocate for herself and her peers. BLOOM clubs are providing vital information on health services and social networks for young women to give them the knowledge, resources, and support they need to be empowered to make informed decisions about their health and rights.

Taking what she learned from BLOOM, Riva is now discussing the disadvantages of child marriage with her parents directly. She can now defend herself and her right to education, and was eventually able to stop her own marriage. She continues to share her story with her community and speaks out against child marriage and on behalf of girls’ rights with Plan throughout Nepal.

“I would like to thank Plan International from the bottom of my heart for bringing a big change in my life.”

 

Dec 1, 2017

Addressing the Rohingya Crisis

Senowara
Senowara

Since August 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya people have fled from Myanmar to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. They joined the more than 200,000 Rohingya already in the area.The Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar remains highly vulnerable, having experi-enced severe trauma and living in difficult conditions. Plan spoke with an 18-year-old young women named Senowara to learn about her family's plight.

“We had one story building in Myanmar with a bathroom, kitchen, dining room and lounge. Now we just have a small tent in this camp, where I live with my mother and younger sister,” says Senowara.

Fleeing the Violence

Senowara’s father died in Mayanmar and when the violence broke out, she and her mother Jaheda, 35, and 10-year-old sister Zohara were forced to flee with her uncle’s family to Bangladesh, arriving in Balukhali Camp, Cox’s Bazar in September 2017. Camp life is very difficult for Senowara who never imagined she would find herself living in such circumstances. “There is no toilet here and no open places, so there is no privacy. The tube-well doesn’t work, the water is stinky and there is nowhere to get washed.”

Continued Risk in the Camps

Senowara’s mother fears for her daughter’s safety in the camp. “I am always scared about my daughter’s security. They are growing up and people always stare at them. I fear something bad will happen to my daughters in the camp. My worries never end.” Every day, Jaheda goes to collect relief aid after morning prayers. The distribution center is located at the main entrance to the refugee camp, which is a long distance from the family tent. Both girls are left alone in the tent during the day.“ For Senowara, she is most fearful at night when she is allowed to leave the tent as there are less people around. The camp is unlit and getting around in the dark can be a dangerous and frightening experience. “At night I go down to the valley to collect water and my sister always comes with me and most of the time, I feel afraid. We need water for everything from drinking, cooking to bathing as well as for going to the toilet.”

Plan International's Response

Orla Murphy, Plan International’s Country Director in Bangladesh says: “For girls there is a very real risk of sexual violence. This is partly because the informal settlements that are being built fail to meet basic safety standards. The camps are overcrowded, there is no privacy, anyone from outside can wander in off the streets, and the shelters that are being constructed have no doors or locks. Our experience shows that girls and women bear the biggest brunt of conflicts and emergencies and adolescent girls in particular are in need of sexual and reproductive health care and hygiene kits to deal with their periods.

In resonse to this ongoing humanitarian crisis, Plan International aims to reach approximately 194,000 people Rohingya people by supporting the needs of children and their families in WASH, Child Protection in Emergencies and Education in Emergencies. As of November 2017, Plan has reached nearly 60,000 individuals.

Senowara's Shelter
Senowara's Shelter
Makeshift camps for Rohingya people in Bangladesh
Makeshift camps for Rohingya people in Bangladesh
Sep 5, 2017

Egypt's promising youth advocate, Al Shaimaa

Al Shaimaa, Egypt's promising youth advocate
Al Shaimaa, Egypt's promising youth advocate

Al Shaimaa, 21, from Egypt is a young woman eager to make an impact. She's currently studying veterinary medicine at university and is a member of Plan International’s Global Youth Advisory Panel (GYAP).

Leading her community

"Joining Plan International has helped me change the way I think about different issues. Before I used to be okay with female genital mutilation (FGM) because I was so unfamiliar with it. I used to think it was a norm in our culture and that there was nothing wrong with it," she shares.

"Now I understand exactly what FGM is and the risks & challenges it poses for girls. I am very opposed to it and I am speaking out against it in my community."

Al Shaimaa is also a passionate advocate against early marriage, "I think it is important to rally members of our communities to inform people. We need to start acting for ourselves instead of waiting - we need to be faster."

Egypt's promising advocate has been part of Plan International's projects since she was 10, and later joined their National Youth Advisory Panel. She's participated in activities, including launching an awareness campaign to help clean the streets of her neighbourhood, and has engaged in meetings on topics like social media and conflict resolution.

One of her fondest and most constructive experiences was attending a woman's rights conference in Zimbabwe. "It was very interesting and eye-opening because we share a lot in common with other African countries," she reflects.

In March 2017 she was also part of the annual GYAP meeting in El Salvador.

Plan International's influence

Al Shaimaa credits Plan International and Because I am a Girl for changing both her life and that of her family.

"It's really helped change my personality to become a stronger person. I used to be shy, but after joining all the activities I became more sociable. It also helped me organize my time better and learn to do more productive things."

"Thinking of my family, I think it gave me more of a voice," she says confidently. "For example, when I was travelling for my first conference with Plan International, my uncles were reluctant to let me go because I was a young girl. However, after speaking and convincing them, they let me go."

Exciting road ahead

Because of her passionate work in her own community, Al Shaimaa has started to receive invitations from parties to join them as an advocate in their local councils.

Al Shaimaa has big dreams and plans for her future, "I want to finish university and begin working in my field."

"I also want to continue taking courses and study abroad to develop my skills and knowledge. I want to integrate the Global Youth Advisory Panel with Egyptian youth, and create a common strategy to help youth develop globally," she shares.

"I want to make a global impact."

 
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