Plan’s annual report on the world’s girls investigates what happens to adolescent girls in disasters, and how to better protect girls’ rights and well-being.
Plan International just released the seventh report in its annual State of the World’s Girls series. In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters looks at what happens to adolescent girls in disasters and why. Using original research and the voices of girls themselves, it shows how adolescent girls’ rights are being ignored before, during and after disasters, both in the urgency of a disaster response, and in the gaps between humanitarian and development work.
The report examines the tension between girls’ vulnerability to violence, and the resilience they so often show in times of crisis, and explores what needs to be done.
The double discrimination of age and sex – why adolescent girls are most at risk in disasters
Why focus on adolescent girls? “This report will show in detail just how and why the humanitarian system is failing adolescent girls. It is failing to count them; it is failing to take account of their particular needs; it is failing to listen to what they have to say, and it is failing to engage them in decisions that affect them. Adolescent girls have particular needs for protection, healthcare, education and participation which are often not met, or even recognised, in an emergency.” (Plan, 2013, p. 13)
Adolescent girls are not just victims. “They are resilient; they show initiative; they can lead communities and other young people, for example in disaster mitigation and planning. They just need the support they are entitled to – including greater access to relevant and life-saving information and inclusion in decision-making.” (Plan, 2013, p. 15)
Education: The silver lining – how emergencies can offer new opportunities for adolescent girls
A study in West and Central Africa on the impact of war, HIV and other high risk situations found that in answer to the question, “What makes you happy?” the most commonly cited answer from all the children was “participation in school”. This was the case for both girls and boys, with girls in fact arguing the case more strongly than the boys. The authors said: “It appears that the simple fact of being registered for school, having one’s fees paid, receiving text books and doing well in exams, is a source of wellbeing for children.” (Executive Summary, p. 8)
Hard choices – boys rather than girls? “In many countries, there is still a preference to send sons rather than daughters to school if parents are forced to choose. This may well be exacerbated in an emergency. […] Research in Pakistan compared school attendance records in eight schools in rural areas in Grades Six to Eight before and after the floods in 2010. In all cases, more girls than boys stayed out of school when the schools resumed after the floods. After the flood, 22 per cent of girls and 7 per cent of boys dropped out, making the differential even more stark.” (Plan, 2013, p. 95)
Keeping girls safe in a disaster – what humanitarian agencies need to do to support and protect girls in emergencies:
The results stress the key missing pieces of current humanitarian work: listening to what adolescent girls have to say, ensuring both their rights and their needs are catered for, and strengthening their resilience. The report recommends the following key action points:
Consult adolescent girls in all stages of disaster preparedness and response.
Train and mobilize women to work in emergency response teams.
Provide targeted services for adolescent girls in the core areas of education, protection and sexual and reproductive health.
Include funding for protection against gender-based violence in the first phase of emergency response.
Collect sex and age disaggregated data, to show the needs of adolescent girls and inform program planning.
Source: Plan International