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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.

Lucia Montes

Senior project manager - She Leads

"Girls and young women have the right to be heard in decisions that affect their lives. Their perspectives should be taken seriously. She Leads supports young advocates in their claim for a space in decision making." You can reach out to Lucia via l.montes@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.

Key Achievements in 2022

  • Continuous engagement through the media:  The programme has continued to engage the media to ensure that they amplify the voices of GYW. For example, there was a Digital Campaign on 16 Days of Activism Campaign on ending violence against women and girls during the 16 Days of activism. Through these platforms, the GYW in She leads implementing countries, sharing their advocacy messages on various social media platforms. Similarly, other media like television and radio continued to create platforms for GYW to share their stories e.g ‘The Ordeal of Accessing Sexual Reproductive Health Services by Women with Disabilities.’
  • Influencing Key Regional Spaces: She Leads organised the Pre-21st Civil Society Organization Forum through a webinar which convened over 50 girls and young women from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mali and Sierra Leone to develop a Communique highlighting challenges and key recommendations for the protection of their rights in the digital environment. The Communique was then submitted to the ACERWC. 
  • She Leads engaged in key advocacy moments such as the 16 Days of Activism, where a  Webinar was held in commemoration of the 16 days of Activism under the theme: unite! activism to end violence against women & girls! The webinar provided a platform for GYW in the She leads implementing countries to cross-learn and share their work in ending gender-based violence against girls and young women and in amplifying the voices in regional spaces. 
  • Inputs into the IGAD Youth Policy: 2 GYW from Kenya were supported to participate in the regional IGAD Youth Policy Validation workshop that took place in Nairobi. This gave the GYW an opportunity to understand the policy, analyze and give recommendations, especially on issues affecting girls and young women. The recommendations were then handed over to the policy consultant and IGAD secretariat for adoption for it to be later presented to the IGAD Council of Ministers for its adoption in the first quarter of 2023.
  • Regional capacity Building Training for youth CSO’s and Pre- East African Community Secretary General’s Youth Forum: She Leads supported 4 GYW to participate in person at the Pre- EAC SG Forum that was held in Nairobi Kenya in preparation for the Secretary General’s Forum.
  • Co-organised the She Leads Girls’ and Young Women Summit 2022: She Leads co-organised the Girls and young women summit 2022 in Kenya to cross-learn, share best practices, lessons learnt and recommendations on a more collaborative approach in project implementation in 2023. The summit convened She leads implementing partners and GYW leaders in Kenya to share their progress, challenges as well as successes with other stakeholders. The key recommendation from the girl's summit held in Kisumu Kenya was the need to hold a regional She Leads Girls and Young Women Summit to provide a platform for girls and young women and She Leads implementing partners to cross learn across the region. 
  • Provision of free media platforms for GYW to advocate for their rights. Private radio and TV stations across the project districts (Busoga one FM, Apex FM, Mama FM, Tiger FM, UBC Star, R FM, Gugudde TV, Eastern Voice FM, Ateker FM. Capital FM, and Bukedde TV) offered the She Leads programme free airtime for the airing of She Leads advocacy messages.  Partners like KAWUO and MUCOBADI have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with media houses to ensure continuity regarding the provision of free airtime for the girls.
  • In May 2022, Girls and Young Women (GYW) from Girl Up Initiative created 2 online platforms (She thoughts 1 on Tiktok and Loud voices 1 on Twitter), which have since promoted online activism for gender equality and girls' and young women's rights.
  • Media coverage: A documentary video was produced and broadcasted through Amhara Mass Media Agency (Government TV and Radio Station) by one of the She Leads project partners of TdH NL, EWLA  bit.ly/SheLeadsDocumentary. A Studio Panel Discussion on the topic of Early Marriage and other HTPs with the involvement of Lawyers, Gender Experts, and other stakeholders was broadcasted through the Amhara Mass Media Agency by EWLA.
  • GYW influencing policies and laws in the sub-counties: Two by-laws have been passed in Iwemba Sub County in Bugiri district (one on Child Protection and the other on regulation of the late-night markets). These bylaws have specific provisions that protect GYW from sexual exploitation by condemning negative and harmful gender norms. The late market nights were promoting child prostitution and defilement because girls and young women would stay in the markets until midnight.
  • Parents and communities embraced second-chance education and enrolled their daughters back in school.
  • Following the post-Covid-19 lockdown, there were high rates of school dropouts due to teenage pregnancies. At least 50% of the Girls enrolled in schools in the Karamoja sub-region have dropped out of school. As a result of the community dialogues on negative social gender norms in Karamoja and Bugiri,  21 teenage mothers returned back to school. KAWUO  collaborated with Wetanga a like-minded CSO in the area which provides school fees and scholastic requirements to ensure that girls and young women stay in school.
  • Through networking during community engagement activities with Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG), Karamoja Pastorate, Church of Uganda, and North Karamoja Pastorate, one GYW group in Moroto identified four children with disabilities (CWDs) from Loputuk and Apetaoi primary school to be supported with school fees and wheelchairs. 
  • GYW groups have been supported by She Leads partners to lobby for, and access economic safety nets, especially the Parish Development Model Funds.; 11 GYW groups did lobbying for and are yet to receive the Parish Development Model Funds minimum of three million UGX per group in FY 2023/24 from the Government of Uganda. Among the 8 groups, 3 groups are from MUCOBADI, and 5 from KAWUO. Additionally, 20 GYW have been trained by Kisoboka Training Institute and provided vocational training, spearheaded by MUCOBADI who engaged the leadership of the institute to enrol the girls and young women for the training.
  • 10 girls and young women from Karamoja were able to acquire property, especially land from their parents, as a result of the training and mentorship sessions they attended that covered advocacy, gender concept, human rights and communication skills, they gained public confidence, public speaking and knowledge on equal rights and this change of attitude by the parents is a key milestone.
  • Participation in Human Rights Mechanisms. In March 2022, 3 GYW were selected to be part of the  UN Human Rights Council 50 where they delivered a statement demanding that women should be paid for care work and pushing for equality between women and men. They also moderated the UN Human Rights side event which was a collective of over 50 organizations across the globe where young women were giving their views in regard to GYW participation in decision-making processes. Also, GYW who participated in the HRC50  will be given a platform to share their experiences and lessons learnt with at least 50% GYW within the consortium 16 GBV cases were reported by GYW to  GBV actors (9 forced marriages, and 6 cases of child trafficking). She Leads GYW in Karamoja was identified as a case volunteer and they were able to report cases to GBV actors depicting their roles in stopping the violence against GYW.

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