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Hear Our Voices report

Do adolescent girls’ issues really matter?

The cover of the ‘Hear our voices’ report

In one of the largest studies of adolescent girls’ rights in the development sector, Plan International spoke directly with over 7,000 adolescent girls and boys aged 12-16 in 11 countries across Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

The purpose of the study was to help girls, communities and international development organizations, like Plan, understand the key issues that adolescent girls face today, and provide youth a platform to express their concerns in their own words.

Listen to girls

Results from this study serve as powerful insights into the opportunities and barriers in the lives of adolescent girls around the world. Girls shared their opinions and concerns about education, marriage, safety, participation and other daily realities – revealing that overall things are getting better for girls, though too slowly in some areas.

The truth about being a girl
41% of girls always or often complete at least 9 years of education

Many girls can now dream of completing school and having a brighter future. Approximately 2 in 5 (41%) of the adolescent girls Plan spoke to said that girls always or often complete at least 9 years of school in their communities. Support from their mothers and fathers was revealed to be a strong determinant of a girl’s ability to pursue an education. One girl from Egypt shared, “My parents like education because they are both uneducated and they want us to be the best and to be highly educated.”

39% of girls never or seldom decide their own marriage

However, consistently seen across all 11 countries, girls are unaware of their rights and decision-making power within their own lives. People around them at home, school and the community enforce social norms and expectations that influence girls’ perceptions of their rights. A major indicator of this was marriage, where almost 39% of girls participating in the study said that girls in their community never or seldom decide their own marriage. “Our marriages are arranged with the choice of our parents,” shared an adolescent girl from Pakistan.

Sadly, gender-based violence was also a common issue – many girls shared their concerns for their own personal safety in their community, even at school. Over a quarter (28%) of girls participating in the study said that girls never or seldom feel safe on their way to and from school. “I just feel safe with my family, because no one else cares for us. Rape and kidnapping cases are a given,” expressed one girl from Nicaragua.

28% girls never or seldom feel safe going to or from school

These findings, and others in the report, demonstrate the unique barriers to survival and development that girls face, simply because they are girls.

In their own words, adolescent girls provided key information that will help Plan work strategically with girls, boys, families, community leaders and policy-makers in developing programmatic practices that influence real, long-term change for girls’ rights.

Read the Hear Our Voices report.