Plan International Rwanda, a development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls will launch a new campaign dubbed ‘Girls Get Equal’ aimed at increasing girls’ and young women’s power, voice and leadership as a way of advancing their equality. It is using this approach to transform unequal gender power relations and bringing about significant and sustainable change so that girls can learn, lead, decide and thrive Plan International has been in existence for over 80 years, and operates in 71 countries and started to work in Rwanda in 2007. According to William Mutero, Interim Country Director of Plan International Rwanda, the launch will take place on Sunday March 17, in partnership with Imbuto Foundation, in Musanze district. The campaign was initiated and launched last year 2018 by Plan International globally to address the root causes of gender inequality by focusing on how and where discrimination and stereotyping hold women and girls back in different areas like education, health, economic participation and opportunity as well as political empowerment. It will empower girls and young women to move with confidence to make crucial decisions affecting their lives, freedom to move, live and speak up without the threat of violence and harassment as well as storytelling to share diverse stories of Girls’ power. Mutero said that the social change campaign with the slogan ‘We won’t stop until girls are seen, heard and valued,’ will last for 5 years with an investment worth Rwf 500 million. During the launch, role models such as best performing girls in secondary schools and other women in business, politics, education, health, and traditional female dancers, among others, will be awarded with materials worth over Rwf 100 million. “If girls get power, decision makers will make sure they do not think for girls when they are not at the table discussing the issues that affect them. Girls must sit there. The woman’s status must be improved since they add value in our community, and they offer a lot in the economy, businesses and leadership,” he said. “We want girls to get freedom and move freely without discrimination or harassment in public transport, markets etc. We want to help them express themselves by starting from the grassroots level and then influence the national level through the social change movement,” Mutero said. Expected success Mutero said that that they will run the campaign in partnership with other stakeholders so that in the end girls and young women will be equally represented and visible in sectors such as media, politics, and the economy, among others. They will have to be able to take decisions that transform their lives without the threat of violence or intimidation and be valued as leaders, change makers and active contributors to society. “We have to engage men to understand their actions’ effects on women and how to support them,” he said, adding that the Global Gender Gap study showed that Rwanda still faces a gap in economic opportunities and education attainment, and health and survival. “We laud Rwanda for having over 60 per cent of parliamentarians and 50 per cent of the cabinet as women but what does it mean, how is it at grassroots level,” Mutero said. The Global Gender Gap Report (2018) shows that there are still gender disparities in political empowerment, with a gap of 77.1% while the economic participation and opportunity gap is at 41.9%. The platforms to be used to make the three year campaign successful will include using influential women such as female musicians, media that produces content for girls, magazines, community mobilization, meetings, and supporting girls to learn from other countries. They also include establishing clubs in schools, working with influential NGOs in the same drive, opinion leaders, districts, digital storytelling, and influencers such as celebrities to inspire young girls. Apart from the campaign, Plan International Rwanda has contributed in many ways to Rwanda’s development including building schools, health centers, Early Childhood Development Centers (ECDCs), and sanitation facilities in the districts of Gatsibo, Bugesera and Nyaruguru. Plan International has built over 40 ECD centres, over 60 classrooms, and a health centre worth Rwf 1 billion, and 2 Teacher Training Colleges. Plan International runs so many programmes including gender transformative child protection, Early Childhood Education, sexual and reproductive health rights, and skills and opportunities for youth employment and entrepreneurship. “We want to fundraise over Rwf 14 billion for a sexual reproductive health program for the next five years,” Mutero said. Mutero said “Plan International’s rallying cry is “Until you can see and hear girls equally in the corridors of power. In the debating chamber. At the decision-making table. In the boardroom, town hall and polling station. In places of worship, art and science. In the field and in the classroom. Until we can live, lead and love without fear and discrimination. Until we are seen, heard and valued as equals, the world will never be peaceful, sustainable or equal.