In case you missed it, Global Impact hosted an event this week on how to be a champion for women and girls. Here are the takeaways and how you can get involved!   

We had a wonderful time speaking with Zayid Douglas, Technical Advisor for Gender Integration at World Vision US and Michelle Van Akin, Disaster Risk Management Team Manager, Child Protection and Gender Based Violence Specialist at Plan International. Plan International USA (Plan) is a girls rights organization working in international development and humanitarian aid, putting girls first in the design and implementation of their programming. World Vision is a faith-based, child focused humanitarian and development advocacy organization responding to emergencies and improving the quality of life for communities around the world. 

Organizations like Plan International and World Vision are doing critical work to protect and empower women and girls. There is a community of charities whose mission it is to ensure that women and girls are treated with respect, allowed access to an education, provided safe and reliable health care, and supported across their life. These organizations are also working to protect women and girls from atrocities like gender-based violence and human rights violations and helping survivors heal.   

When we spoke to Zayid and Michelle, a couple of things stood out in our conversation. To learn more about this vital cause area, watch the recording or skim the takeaways below:


Takeaway 1: Sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and displacement settings is under-reported and difficult to measure. 
Sexual and gender-based violence is any act perpetrated against a person’s will that is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships. It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and it takes the form of denial of resources or access to services. It inflicts harm on women, girls, men and boys. 

It’s difficult to accurately measure when this happens in conflict settings because there isn’t enough reporting, but we know that it happens, and it disproportionately affects girls, who are up to three times more likely than boys to experience sexual violence.  

Plan International is uniquely equipped to work with child survivors. Their staff have the knowledge, skills and outlook needed to support girls and help them heal, providing case management and physical support such as offering dignity kits and life skills training.  

Takeaway 2: Child marriage is a form of gender-based violence.  
Every 2 seconds, a girl under 18 is married. Child, early or forced marriage or unions are a violation of human rights. Early marriage denies girls their right to make vital decisions about their sexual health and well-being. It forces them out of education and into a life of poor prospects, with an increased risk of violence, abuse, ill health or early death. Poverty often drives child marriage when families struggle to afford care for children. 

World Vision is addressing child marriage holistically, by addressing the root cause. They identify how these issues came to be, why these practices continue, and who is perpetuating them before figuring out how to end it. Evidence-based programming empowers girls and boys to live a life free from violence and become agents for change in ending gender-based violence.  

Takeaway 3: Women and girls face unique needs in Afghanistan.  
The rights and well-being of women and girls in Afghanistan are top of mind for all of our charity partners, including World Vision and Plan International. Nutrition, food security and livelihoods as well as health and access to clean water are particularly important. World Vision is working with midwives and community health workers to train on proper nutrition, expand access to clean water and highlight the importance of latrines. They’re also building early development spaces to prepare young children for school. Finally, they’re continuing programs to ensure women have access to information on starting small businesses, establishing safe hygiene practices and more. Some of these programs have paused due to safety, but there are ongoing conversations to help protect this work. 

Takeaway 4: There are many great ways to be a global champion for women and girls. 
World Vision hosts a program called Strong Women, Strong World ™; this is a movement to ensure a safe and happy life for women and girls that includes everyone – men, women and anyone interested in advancing the cause. Raising awareness and bringing attention to issues women face is crucial to this work. We must create relationships with peers, donors, governments and more to promote change.  

Plan International has two suggestions for readers:  

  • Become an advocate with them to advance policies that remove barriers for girls. Help them pursue whatever life path they choose. Plan’s advocates sign petitions, call their representatives and receive information on policies that affect girls.  
  • If you know young people who are interested in helping others, but aren’t sure how, they can join Plan International’s youth advisory board. This is a group of young people from across the U.S. that provide input into Plan’s programming and advocacy work.  

Takeaway 5: The moment to support our Women and Girls Fund is now. 
Invest in the safety and well-being of women and girls everywhere by giving to Global Impact’s Women and Girls Fund. Help provide education, protection and rehabilitation from violence, job training, health care, safe drinking water and more. All donations support our featured charity partners: International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Plan International, World Vision, Women for Women International, American Jewish World Service and Episcopal Relief & Development. Thank you for your generous support!