She Leads is a consortium that brings together child rights organisations, feminist/women’s rights organisations, and girl- and young women- (GYW) led groups in a joint effort to increase the sustained influence of GYW on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions. She Leads aims to support and equip girls and young women to drive change in their countries and works at the international level to drive policy change on girls’ and young women’s participation and to empower GYW to use international systems to advance their advocacy.
She Leads is a five-year joint programme of Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children – ECPAT the Netherlands (DCI-ECPAT), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Terre des Hommes (TdH) Netherlands, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
This programme has a specific geographic focus on East Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya), West Africa (Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Liberia), and the Middle East (Lebanon and Jordan). The programme also aims at targeting regional institutions, international human rights mechanisms, and other stakeholders, as well as facilitating girls’ and young women’s access to regional and international platforms.
The goal of the She Leads programme is to increase the sustained influence of girls and young women on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions.
To attain this goal, the following three outcomes are required:
- Collective GYW action and activism in a gender-responsive civil society.
- Increased acceptance of positive social gender norms.
- Political institutions at all levels enable the full and meaningful participation of GYW in decision-making.
This programme is context-specific, as each country has different factors (such as the openness of the political system, available civic space, conflict and instability, the strength of civil society, and prevalence of harmful norms) that shape the different pathways for change. She Leads supports girl-led groups and local partners in creating their own agenda and making their own decisions on advocacy and strategy.
The 10 Guiding Principles of She Leads
- Human Rights, Gender Equality and Social Justice are at the core of our work and our joint programme.
- Inclusiveness, intersectionality and embracing diversity: non-discrimination and particular inclusion of those GYW who are usually marginalised in society.
- Addressing power inequalities in the contexts we work in and within our consortium.
- Voices of girls and young women are central to the She Leads programme, in design and implementation.
- Respect for the autonomy of girl-led and youth-led organisations.
- Self-care and collective well-being are key, as our social change work is demanding and takes its toll, especially on the young people involved.
- Equal partnership at the different levels of our consortium.
- Collective accountability and transparency to each other and to our donors.
- Decentralized decision-making: sharing power and decision-making space, valuing each opinion, each person’s expertise, and each idea.
- Each partner adds its unique value to our collaboration, no matter where we are based, how big or small our organisations are, whether we are adult- or GYW-led entities.
At present-day, we are seeing an increase in girl-led and youth-led activity that is challenging gender inequity, exclusion, and injustice around the world. Young women and girls have started to come together to defend their right to inclusion. The increase in young women’s and girls’ involvement in civic spaces has helped to achieve global breakthroughs regarding gender equality.
Nevertheless, there is still a long road ahead, since gender-based discrimination and age-related social norms deprive and limit civic spaces for girls and young women. Consequently, girls and young women experience restricted rights to move freely, express themselves, and participate in the public sphere. This exclusion is further exacerbated when girls and young women experience intersecting forms of discrimination. In political spheres, many governments silence GYW’s voices, further excluding young women from participating and expressing their opinions.
She Leads is dedicated to championing GYW’s rights to freely express themselves, participate in public decision-making, and have their voices heard. To achieve this, the following six key strategies have been put in place:
- Fund and resource girl-led/young feminist organising, collective action and activism.
- Data-driven and evidence-based advocacy & research.
- Catalyse the growth and strength of social movements and collective action for girls’ rights
- Media influencing & advocacy.
- Advocate for girls’ access to international institutions and human rights mechanisms.
- Capacity strengthening support and joint learning between civil society organisations (CSOs), girl-led groups and young feminist organisations.
The She Leads program is established to give girls and young women plenty of opportunities to provide their views and have a say in how the program is run and governed. Strong technical input, collaborative and decentralized decision-making, accountability, adaptability, and on-the-ground coordination are all supported by the governance structure of this programme.