THE BLOG

By Learning About the Challenges That Girls Face, They Can Seek Change

16/02/2015 17:41 GMT | Updated 18/04/2015 10:59 BST

Inequality for girls is a global problem. Across the world millions of girls are unable to go to school, access adequate healthcare or even choose who they want to marry and when to have children.

The effects of this are clear - a better education is linked to better health, longer life expectancy and reduced maternal and child mortality. Imagine if all girls could fulfil their potential to explore opportunities that would lift them out of poverty. They would be able to have a much more positive effect on their families and their communities.

As a Girlguiding member I'm a passionate advocate for international women's rights, and as a medical student I'm particularly interested in improving healthcare for women globally. Through guiding I've had the opportunity to spend time with girls and young women in Malawi, and I've seen first-hand the struggles girls can face in accessing healthcare and education and the repercussions this has on their life.

Girlguiding's new badge, called Breaking Barriers, explores the different challenges that girls face daily all over the world. It covers a range of topics, including safe relationships, health and nutrition, education and economic empowerment, and it helps girls aged 10 to 14 find out what life is like for their peers globally.

Last week I attended the launch of Breaking Barriers at the House of Commons and spoke to Justine Greening, secretary of state for International Development, on how girls can break through the barriers holding them back. I also met with girls who tested the badge, and it was so lovely to see the sheer enthusiasm they had for what they have learnt.

By learning about the challenges that girls face, they can seek change. As a Guide Leader, I'm always amazed at how passionate and determined my group can be when there is a cause they feel strongly about, such as child marriage and lack of access to education.

I'm a member of Girlguiding's Advocate panel, one of 17 girls aged 14-25 who campaign on issues that matter to girls and young women. Girls Matter is our campaign calling on politicians to listen to girls' concerns ahead of this year's general election. One of our eight calls for change is asking politicians to make girls' rights a priority in the UK's approach to international development. With 65 million girls across the globe currently not receiving an education and 14 million girls forced or coerced into marriage every year - we must ensure girls rights are at the heart of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

Gender discrimination is not just something that happens in far-away counties. Girlguiding research shows that here in the UK, girls are continuing to face discrimination, sexual harassment and inequality. But by empowering girls and young women, both at home and abroad to speak out and take action we can give them a better chance in life and help them reach their potential. That is what our new badge is all about - opening UK girls' eyes to the plight of other girls across the world - and showing them how they can use their voices to smash the barriers standing in the way of all girls.