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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

Let’s hear it from the girls

For years we’ve heard about the need to empower girls. But do they really feel empowered?

No, reckons Plan International UK, whose State Of Girls’ Rights In The UK 2020 report surveyed 1,000 young women aged 14 to 21. Highly aware of gender inequality and discrimination, young women are now are calling out what they feel have been empty messages of female empowerment. Here are our key takeaways from the new report…


Girls want regular, relevant, “real-world” sex & relationships classes. They want to learn with boys, and they want boys to learn about periods. Girls – especially those who are taught very little about their body parts and sexuality – also notice the lack discussion of pleasure.

“I wish I had access to more information, particularly about sexuality and the female body” – London participant

“Nobody ever talks about porn. We had [a speaker] come in to do the porn talk the other day. I was actually quite amused watching the boys who were clearly porn watchers; they had no idea just how the industry exploited women. And they were the ones that were asking all the questions. That’s where boys are getting their sex tips from” – Inverness participant

“A lot of things have always been taboo. People haven’t been talking about sex, rape, periods, how your body grows… It’s really important that we talk about these kinds of things because where else are we going to learn about it? We have to have somewhere where we can talk about it, have our opinions and not be judged… It should be talked about in multiple places: at school, at home, in the media”Birmingham participant


Girls are under scrutiny – they feel their bodies are being policed and judged by parents, teachers, friends and online. They’re also under pressure to conform to unrealistic body and beauty standards. And they can never win: if they wear make-up or if they don’t, that gets commented on. And it all has an impact. Because of worrying about their appearance…

  • 1 in 6 girls have missed school or work

  • 1 in 4 have decided not to leave the house (eg to go to the shops or out for a walk)

“We are constantly being told we are not good enough or pretty enough. Not – enough. Constantly being told by, like, everywhere. You can’t escape capitalism or ads. They always want to make money off you, so they are always going to prey on any insecurity. So you are bombarded constantly by the need to be perfect – and that’s insane” – Belfast participant