“The girls of today are the strong women of tomorrow.”

Every year on International Women’s Day, we think about gender inequality and its effects on girls and young women. “Women, young and old, continue to be stigmatized, attacked, discriminated against and harassed online because they are women and they dare speak up,” says Garance Reus-Deelder, Director of Plan International.

Garance Reus-Deelder, Director of Plan International

Who is Garance Reus-Deelder?

An optimist worries a lot, quote by Madeleine Albright, a description that fits me well. I am optimistic and energetic in life, but at the same time I worry a lot about the world. Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s statement fits seamlessly with this: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; In fact, it’s the only thing he owns† In other words: If we don’t take action ourselves, nothing will ever change. As Director of Plan International, I want to bring about this change by fighting for children’s rights and promoting equality for girls and young women.

Eliminating gender inequality is central to the international agenda. Have you ever dealt with it yourself?

Did you know that the Netherlands ranks 31st in the global gender gap index, only one place above Mozambique? So there is still a lot of gender inequality in our country, whether it’s intentional or unintentional, visible or invisible. I asked myself, when we had our first child, “Are you going to keep working full time?” Has this question been asked by a man before? new! Or all those times when a guy explains to me what it’s like to be, the so-called stature of a man† If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s not to adjust to yourself, but to say something about it. The moments of discomfort you create make people think and are a precursor to change.

How do you apply that knowledge and experience to your leadership style?

For me, leadership is about the challenge of dealing with norms and values ​​and constantly questioning the status quo. Sometimes with a smile, but sometimes also with force. It’s about taking care of yourself and your colleagues and making good use of talents. Or are those feminine values? In my view, it is the wise leadership through which I want to change societal gender norms.

Did you have a role model in it?

‘Believes! Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya is my hero. She was a human rights celebrity and was murdered in 2006 for – as a woman – she made her voice heard. Today, women are still attacked or marginalized because they are women and dare to speak out.

Why is it difficult for a woman to be a leader?

It begins with the realization that girls do not lack leadership ambitions, but believe that women have to work even harder in order to be recognized. It’s not surprising when you see women leaders being attacked for their femininity. For example, Sigrid Kaag, who has been subjected to the most horrific things thrown at her both online and online, or Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, who was twice ignored while two men watched without opening their mouths. This has implications for girls and young women around the world. At some point they think “I’m going to keep my mouth shut”. We want to break through that mechanism at Plan International by supporting young women and giving them a platform. The girls of today are the strong women of tomorrow.

Do you see the promotion of gender equality as a feminist struggle? Or is there a task for men, too?

There is certainly a task for men and it is important to start a conversation with both girls and boys about equal opportunities and rights from an early age. Involving boys is an essential part of our programmes. Gender inequality is a problem for all of us. Men should actively help, for example by confronting each other about their behaviour.

How do unequal power relationships affect girls and young women?

In many of the countries in which we work, girls and women are unable to make a decision about their future. They don’t go to school, they don’t have access to contraceptives, or they get information about sexual activity. While these are prerequisites for gender equality. Moreover, the climate crisis comes at the top of the list, and food and water shortages are leading to more school dropouts, forced marriage and sexual exploitation. Without equality, but also climate action, poverty will persist and women will remain disenfranchised.

How does Plan International want to address this disparity?

“One of our programmes, in ten countries in Africa and the Middle East, is she drives† This name indicates exactly what we want to achieve with it: the meaningful and effective participation of girls and young women on many different fronts. Empowering women to participate in decision-making, to be able to express their opinion. If we can change that drastically, then we have a chance for gender equality.

The road to gender equality still seems long. Are there steps forward?

“A big milestone, for example, is the introduction in the Dominican Republic of a law criminalizing child marriage. Plan International has lobbied for this for a long time. It gives this energy and is an inspiration to other women. Not only that, we can capture all the learning points and apply them In other countries, another step forward, which we have taken thanks to the pandemic, is the implementation of digital means. Girls and young women can communicate with each other online and organize themselves better. At the same time, we must work to improve equal access to digital media and address online harassment The Internet If we overcome these barriers, it is a powerful tool and take the next step towards gender equality.

Is there an additional fee for International Women’s Day this year?

“My thoughts are of course with Ukraine. For vulnerable citizens. Among women and children fleeing or in air-raid shelters and among men who have been called up to fight. Gender equality should always be a topic of conversation, especially in times like these. Girls and women are hardest hit in crises and often They are excluded from negotiations. I don’t care whether we call it sane or feminine leadership. Such leadership makes the world more peaceful, and I am convinced.

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