International Day of the Girl and a plan for the future

23 September 2013

Heather Saunders from Plan UK looks ahead to International Day of the Girl and explores some of Plan’s teaching resources on girls’ education.

11th October 2013 is the second ever International Day of the Girl, which was launched last year by the UN after a campaign led by the global-children’s charity, Plan. It is an exciting moment to highlight the power of education to transform girls’ lives and show the world why education and the rights of adolescent girls should be a global priority.

Why is Day of the Girl important?

At least one in five girls around the world are denied an education due to poverty, conflict and discrimination. In developing countries, one in nine girls are married by the age of 15, all too often ending their education early and preventing them from fulfilling their potential. But we know that educated girls are less likely to encounter abuse and violence, and more likely to be literate and healthy.

In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of targets agreed at the UN focussed on promoting development and reducing poverty, come to an end. The discussions about what the next set of goals should be are in full swing and now is time to make sure that a girl’s right to education is at the top of the list.

Plan UK are celebrating International Day of the Girl with schools across the country. We believe that one of the best places to talk about the right to education is in schools, where education happens every day.

Plan UK Girls' Rights teaching resourceTo help your students explore these issues, we’ve put together Girls’ Rights after the Millennium Development Goals (PDF). The lesson invites Key Stage 3 pupils to come up with their own set of goals for beyond 2015, exploring a range of human rights issues that are particularly relevant to girls, and that are currently not covered by the MDGs.

The resource includes activities, discussion topics and group-work which will allow boys and girls to develop empathy, critical thinking skills and a deeper understanding of the big issues that will shape their future.

There are further inspiring resources and films available on the Plan UK website, designed to spark debate amongst students. If you, your school, or your pupils are interested in celebrating International Day of the Girl with us and learning more about the importance of the right to education, visit:

For further reading and resources on girls’ rights and girls’ education issues, take a look through the following links:

What do you think about girls’ rights and education? Do you hold the same opinion as Plan UK? Should girls’ education be a global priority to reduce poverty? Add your comments below…


  1. Paul Hipperson

    I have 6 Senegalese sisters-in-law. Their father, mother, community and government did a huge amount to support them in their education and all of them completed secondary education and 4 undertook tertiary study. We do not recognise their story in your video. Why does the video imply that the blame for low school completion is entirely on African men, African cultures and African governments? Why is their no reference to the fact that girls education was a priority for African governments, families and societies after independence? From the 1980s the “international community” through World Bank/IMF SAPs forced African governments to drastically reduce investment in education and created the current crisis. Why do you not focus on this at all?

  2. Amy West

    Hi Paul. Thanks for your response to this, and for sharing your personal perspective on the issue of girl’s access to education. You have some interesting points, and I agree that we could criticise Plan UK’s film for not showing a positive view of African men. Particularly, when a girl states ‘boys bully me, men desire me’ However, I’m not sure if the film goes as far to blame African cultures and African governments for this issue? It would be interesting to hear what Plan UK have to say about the purpose of the film, and the message that they are trying to get across? Although we could accuse the film of being a little simplistic, it cannot be denied that they are raising an important issue. The reality is that there is still a huge gender imbalance between girls and boys accessing education. Whilst your story is a positive one, this is not always the case. It would be interesting to think about how organisations such as Plan UK can share positive stories(like your own family story) and challenge stereotypes, whilst also raising awareness of the reality of this enormous global issue. A balance that is always tricky to get right.

  3. Paul Hipperson

    Thanks for the response Amy. I think you have missed my point. I don’t think Plan need to “share positive stories [or] challenge stereotypes”. They must stop actively and intentionally creating and reinforcing stereotypes of backward misogynist societies and they must stop intentionally and misleadingly ignoring the role of the ‘international community’ (ie our Western governments) in creating the current crisis.
    I believe you have worked for Plan. Why do you think they make no mention of the IMF/World Bank’s enforced disinvestment in education by African governments? Why do Plan and Think Global not offer any criticism of MDGs from the perspective of African governments?
    I’m afraid I don’t believe Think Global or Plan are trying for a “balance that is always tricky to get” – I fear an intention to deliberately simplify the problems as being created by incapable African governments and societies that can be easily fixed by western school kids donating money to NGOs such as Plan.
    Teachers are there are to educate kids; simply promoting Plan’s agenda without critiquing it and acknowledging its vested interests is dangerous and uneducational.

  4. Isobel Mitchell

    I think Paul’s criticism of the resources from Plan on Girl’s education is unreasonably critical. The resource is honest about the reality for many girls living in poverty. It does not suggest that all African girls experience this issue – the video makes it clear that it is about girls living in poverty (and not girls such as Paul’s Sengalese sisters in law, who like he says have enjoyed a great deal of support from their families for their education.) Unfortunately many families are not able to do suppport their children in this way. The resource does not focus on exploring the reasons why many girls are not accessing a safe education, but it certainly does not intentionally ignore the role of the international community. In fact the lesson plan gives a lot of scope for students to think about the role of the international community when discussing what should replace the current MDGs. It is also encouraging students to think critically about the current MDGs, and certainly does not imply that the issues faced by the poor in Africa are all created by ‘incapable’ African governments, or that the problems can be easily fixed. Improving girl’s education is not simply Plan’s agenda, it is an agenda shared by the majority of countries in the world, and an agenda which I am sure you would agree is shared by most African governments.

  5. Paul Hipperson

    Thanks for engaging Isobel. I stand by my comments as reasonably critical. I agree that “the resource is honest about the reality for many girls living in poverty” and I haven’t suggested otherwise. I don’t understand why you have chosen to assume that my sister’s-in-law were not raised in poverty. You are wrong about that.
    I stand by my assertion that Plan and Think Global do intentionally ignore the role of the international community in creating the crisis. Can you point me to any resources produced by Plan or Think Global that enable kids to think critically about the MDGs and to better understand the structural, macro-economic forces that continue to force Africans into poverty and prevent African governments from providing the basics such as education?
    “Improving Girls’ education is an agenda shared by ALL African governments (not just most!)” the point I am trying to discuss is that the MDGs and other Western interventions such as SAPs, NGO control of funding and resources etc are also seen by ALL African governments unfair, counterproductive, focussed on the needs of Western interests and inherently avoid the issue of neo-liberal, neo-colonial, corporate control and global injustice, they are forced to sign up to them!
    If a UK kids had been thoroughly taught using all of Plan’s resources, what do you think she would answer(now that she is supposedly fully informed), if asked the question “why are so many African girls out of school?” I am utterly convinced she would say that is entirely the result of the poverty, misogyny and maladministration of African people, societies and governments. I believe this is a gross injustice to UK education and will only contribute in the long term to the continuing underdevelopment of Africa. That is why I am so forthright and frankly angry about the deliberate lack of balance and knowledge in so much of what goes by the name of Global Learning. It must be addressed! I would love to hear more of your thoughts and those of others.


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