New research from Plan shows the shocking truth about adolescent girls in developing countries. In one of the largest studies ever undertaken of its kind, we talked to 7000 adolescent girls and boys in 11 countries about girls' opportunities. The findings are overwhelming. These girls are some of the most disadvantaged people on earth.
FGM needs to be put on political centre stage. It needs the hashtags, the likes, the virals to bring the silent suffering of millions out in public discourse. Until such time 140 million girls and women will continue to be told that their genitals have been cut and mutilated to make them "clean" and "beautiful".
The prevalence of FGM varies between regions of Guinea-Bissau, depending on the distribution of different ethnic groups who consider the practice part of their ethnic identity, traditional and religious beliefs. And this is the crux of the issue. FGM is so bound up with the culture of many groups that it becomes hard, and controversial, to tackle it without seeming to undermine the very foundations of that historic culture.
Working under this kind of pressure also requires that we overcome hurdles together and that we celebrate successes, big or small. It's amazing to see the group spontaneously applaud their colleague for getting a record number of concept notes in, for getting those airplanes to deliver the food to the far flung areas or for winning a big grant from an institutional donor...
When Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, almost all of Plan International's areas were hit. We were well prepared. We had worked with communities to stockpile hygiene kits, emergency shelter materials and clean water kits. Yet, the magnitude of the super typhoon and the devastating effect of the storm surges were much bigger than anyone could have imagined.
On the way to Salcedo we passed through several towns - all affected to varying degrees by the power of the typhoon. The worst was Hernani - most houses had been washed out to sea or destroyed. The ashphalt had risen up together like mountain ranges combining - the force required to do that is incredible.
The devastation is total, although fortunately there are some villages where the material damage is enormous but the death toll is not too high. We now have an army of technical specialists from our international office here in Manila, in many cases also acting as technical experts and guides for experts and assessment teams sent to the Philippines by other donors, because Plan International has been working in the affected region for decades.
It is imperative that post-Millennium Development Goals, currently being negotiated, do not overlook the plight of the disabled people and children. It is time for concrete action to ensure that particularly children with disabilities have access to education, protection from violence and abuse; and opportunity to have their voices heard. This is not just a development agenda it is also a human rights issue.
We tend to forget that birth registration is a critical life event and that a birth certificate can make or break a child's future. Later in life, a birth certificate can help protect a child against forced marriage, child labour, premature enlistment in the armed forces or, if accused of a crime, prosecution as an adult.