Girls and young women all over the world feel excluded from politics

Ten years of International Day of the Girl: Plan International conducts international research on the political participation of girls and young women

Extensive ‘Equal Power Now’ international research by Plan International shows that girls and young women feel significantly excluded from political participation. They do not sympathize with their political leaders and do not see that their interests are barely represented. Globally, men still strongly dominate political leadership and representation: only one in four MPs (26%) at the national level are women and only 1% are under the age of 30.[1]. The research was conducted in the run-up to International Girls’ Day (October 11), a day declared by the United Nations to draw attention to girls’ rights and opportunities. This year marks the tenth anniversary of International Girls’ Day.

on search equal power now: Girls and young women and political participation she did 29,000 Girls and young women (15-24 years old) from 29 countries, including Kenya, Colombia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Peru, Sweden, Malawi, Vietnam, the United States and Zambia. In the Netherlands, 1,000 girls and young women were interviewed.

Anna, 23 years old: “As a young woman, I notice that you prepare differently to engage in a political discussion than men and boys. They are naturally encouraged to take up space, while as a girl you feel that the space is not meant for you.”

Girls Activists in Bangladesh – Plan International

Young women think politics is a man’s world

The vast majority (97%) of girls and women surveyed consider it important to be politically active. For example, by voting, signing a petition, or being a member of a youth movement. Research shows that girls and women hardly feel represented in politics.

Global conclusions:

  • Only 34% of young women surveyed believe that politicians work on issues that concern them,
  • Only half (50%) believe that their environment accepts political participation from girls and young women. One in five (19%) is personally barred from political participation,
  • 41% of Dutch girls and young women have lost faith in political leaders, compared to 56% worldwide.
  • Globally, 45% of respondents believe that political leaders do not understand their views,
  • 4 out of 10 (40 per cent) young women believe that female politicians are victims of abuse and intimidation. 42 percent believe women leaders are judged by their appearance or clothing. In the Netherlands, these percentages are lower (23% and 31%), respectively.
  • One in three young women (32%) worldwide says they don’t know a single politician who inspires them to become politically active,
  • 1 in 5 (21 percent) Dutch girls are satisfied with what politicians do on topics they consider important, such as climate change. Worldwide this is 11 percent.
Peruvian girl speaking in Spain
Youth Defender Nohelia (Peru) – Plan International

Garance Reus-Deelder, Director of Plan International: “Young women want to be politically active in any way. But around the world, they are still denied the right to make decisions that affect their lives the most. Deep-rooted gender inequality means that girls and young women face more and different obstacles to their political participation than their male peers.”

Climate change, poverty and mental health are topics that matter to girls

A proper reflection of girls and women in politics is not only a matter of justice, but it is also necessary to put the issues that matter to them on the agenda. Globally, girls and young women see peace policies (55 percent) and climate change (54 percent) as a priority, as well as tackling poverty and unemployment (55 percent). Mental and physical health is also an important political concern for young Dutch women (49%).

Annual survey of the barrierThe things that stand in the way of gender equality

Plan International operates under the title Status of girls in the world Each year, in the run-up to International Girl’s Day, I research the challenges that specific girls face in their lives and thus stand in the way of gender equality. This year, girls and young women are standing up for their right to access political decision-making at the local, national and international levels. This includes support for feminist organizations led by young women and a zero-tolerance approach to (sexual) harassment policies and activists.

Report: link to the entire study

Country fact sheet: link to Dutch search results

Dutch executive summary: link to the Dutch summary of the report

girl looking at the camera
A girl activist during the “Girls Get Equality” campaign in Vietnam – Plan International

[1] Inter-Parliamentary Union, Youth Participation in National Parliaments, 2021, retrieved 25The tenth June 2022

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