The challenges faced by girls in developing nations are many. While we focus our work on the multiplicative effect of education, it is important to recognize that is not the only solution to difficulties girls face.
In 2013, Plan International completed a broad-scale study of girls ages 11-22 in five urban cities in developing countries, published in a study called “Adolescent Girls’ Views on Safety in Cities. Findings from the Because I am a Girl: Urban Programme Study in Cairo, Delhi,Hanoi, Kampala and Lima”. The aim was to understand more thoroughly the problems these girls face and what steps may be possible to develop solutions. Concerns of girls were frequently tied to safety, inclusion, and empowerment. The complex survey had girls walk their streets in groups, identifying areas of concern and drawing maps of key community features (either positive or negative).
For some girls, wild dogs were a primary threat to safety and comfort, while for others it was uncollected trash creating hiding areas for potential attackers. Other girls spoke of the inability to use public parks for sport, as groups of men would take them over for questionable purposes.
We speak frequently of the need to improve girls’ access to education, but this study brought up more questions. How can we ensure that the girls are safe traveling to and from school? How can we take the education girls receive and use that as a tool to improve the entire community?
Girls interviewed spoke of their exclusion from public planning processes, and of their deep frustration surrounding that. Because the sets of concerns girls and young women face are unique to them, and with the shifting landscape different from those their mothers may have faced, these problems can be hidden to other groups. The study called for increased participation and inclusion of girls in these planning and development spaces in order to best create real solutions to these exact problems.
By focusing our giving to schools that prioritize girls’ education, we hope to build the next generation of planners, of researchers, and of women-centric developers. To support programs educating and empowering women, check out Sirjana Institute and the Euphraisa Women’s Center.