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She Leads

She Leads is a consortium that brings together child rights organisations, feminist/women’s rights organisations, and GYW-led groups in a joint effort to increase sustained influence of girls and young women (GYW) on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions.

Henriette Kristiansen

Senior Project Manager - She Leads

"Equal rights for all human beings should not be an ideal to strive for; it should be the foundation of our society. We must each do our part in creating a world where all persons have the capability and freedom to choose the life that is right for them". Contact Henriette: h.kristiansen@tdh.nl


She Leads is a five-year joint programme of Plan International Netherlands, Defence for Children - ECPAT the Netherlands (DCI-ECPAT), African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Terre des Hommes (TdH) Netherlands, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. 

The geographic focus of the programme is East Africa (Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya), West Africa (Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia) and the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan). In addition to the key work in these countries, the programme is implemented at regional and international levels, targeting regional institutions, international human rights mechanisms and other stakeholders, and facilitating GYW’s access to regional and international platforms.

The She Leads programme objective is to increase sustained influence of girls and young women on decision-making and the transformation of gender norms in formal and informal institutions.

Three interrelated outcomes are needed to achieve this objective: 

  1. Collective GYW action and activism in a gender-responsive civil society
  2. Increased acceptance of positive social gender norms
  3. Political institutions at all levels enable full and meaningful participation of GYW in decision-making.

All She Leads partners work to achieve these outcomes through activities and engagements that form a pathway for change. Each change process is context-specific, shaped by factors such as the openness of the political system, available civic space, conflict and instability, strength of civil society and prevalence of harmful norms. The consortium does not determine girl-led groups’ and local partners’ agendas but supports them making their own decisions (about advocacy issues, targets, tactics).

The 10 Guiding Principles of She Leads

  1. Human Rights, Gender Equality and Social Justice are at the core of our work and our joint programme
  2. Inclusiveness, intersectionality and embracing diversity: non-discrimination and particular inclusion of those GYW who are usually marginalised in society
  3. Addressing power inequalities in the contexts we work in and within our consortium
  4. Voices of girls and young women are central to the She Leads programme, in design and implementation
  5. Respect for autonomy of girl-led and youth-led organisations
  6. Self-care and collective well-being is key, as our social change work is demanding and takes its toll, especially on young people involved
  7. Equal partnership at the different levels of our consortium
  8. Collective accountability and transparency to each other and to our donor
  9. Decentralized decision-making: sharing power and decision-making space, valuing each opinion, each expertise and each idea
  10. Each partner adds its unique value to our collaboration, no matter where we are based, how big or small our organisations are, whether we are adult- or GYW-led entities

Our strategies

Worldwide, we witness a rise in girl-led and youth-led activism that challenge gender inequality, exclusion and injustice. Every day, courageous girls and young women come together to claim their right to be included. The global increase of young people’s involvement in civic space accounts for many breakthroughs worldwide.

At the same time, discriminatory gender- and age-related social norms deny and restrict civic space for GYW, limiting their rights to move freely, voice opinions and engage in public life - even more so for girls and young women who experience intersecting forms of discrimination. Many African and Middle Eastern governments exclude girls and young women’s voices from the political domain, and with the worldwide trend of closing and changing civic space, it becomes harder for girls and young women to express opinions, assemble and associate.

She Leads is committed to promoting girls and young women’s rights to engage in public decision-making and to freely express themselves and have their voices heard. To make this happen, six key strategies have been prioritised:

  • Fund and resource girl-led/young feminist organising, collective action and activism
  • Data-driven and evidence-based advocacy & research
  • Catalyse the growth and strength of social movements and collective action for girls rights
  • Media influencing & advocacy
  • Advocate for girls’ access to international institutions and human rights mechanisms
  • Capacity strengthening support and joint learning between civil society organisations (CSOs), girl-led groups and young feminist organisations

The She Leads programme is designed to give ample space for the voice and vote of girls and young women in the management and governance of the programme. The governance structure promotes strong technical input, joint and decentralised decision-making, accountability, flexibility, and on-the-ground coordination.

Read more about Girls Empowerment


Enhanced collective action and activism by GYW in a gender-responsive civil society

Collective action and activism by GYW will be enhanced when young, female, collective leadership within society becomes more visible, and if their actions and claims are supported/ amplified by (adult-led) CSOs within an inclusive social movement where girls can lead and advocate for gender equality. Child, youth and women’s rights and feminist organizations that jointly promote the girls’ rights agenda are key drivers.

Changes are initiated by strengthened, well-resourced, girl-led groups with advocacy skills.
These groups are safe spaces for peer-to-peer confidence building, strengthening political awareness and developing advocacy skills. An important condition for this is access to safe spaces (school, community, online platforms).

Increased acceptance of positive social gender norms

Gender norms can shift when influential traditional/religious leaders publicly question the validity of current norms and when societies are increasingly aware of their harm. Both conditions are generated by increasing visible GYW leadership and visible (gender and age) role models. The media plays a crucial role in framing gender-positive messages and countering negative gender norms and stereotypes. Enhanced engagement and connect-edness of progressive leaders (change agents), boys’ and men’s groups creates male role models.

Political institutions at all levels enable meaningful participation of GYW in decision-making

Increased social pressure of a strong girl-led social movement, increased political will to reform decision-making structures, and effective pressure from international institutions enable GYW’s meaningful participation. Political will results from influence by a coalition of gender champions within political institutions. Pressure from international institutions is a consequence of increased participation and influence of GYW within their space.

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