To Share Their Voices

Empowering Girls to Advocate for Their Rights Globally

by Lisa Klope

“We cannot say ‘empower girls’ without putting them at the forefront of the process,” says Sabrina James ’15, alumna of USF’s Human Rights Education master’s program.

James is currently in Washington D.C. working at Plan International as the Youth Advocacy Advisor on the This is My Moment project. “Plan International seeks to support girls to empower themselves and leverage their influence to ensure girls’ voices are heard by their governments and powerful stakeholders,” explains James. Working as Plan International’s Girls’ Empowerment intern during the fall of 2015, James designed monitoring, evaluation, and learning materials for the This is My Moment project. This is My Moment was established to provide a means for girl-advocates’ voices to be included in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, a project of the United Nations that aims to provide direction in establishing global development goals. Girl-advocates from, Kenya, the Philippines, Brazil, and Pakistan worked with This is My Moment for over a year to learn about the global development goals, girls’ rights and advocacy practices.  This fall, the program brought a girl-advocate delegation to the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly to share their insights about girls’ rights. “The girl-advocates are raising awareness about girls’ rights while also holding their governments and the world accountable to their duties to ensure all young people can enjoy their full human rights,” says James. “The girls were confident, bold and ready to tell the world the problems girls are facing and how to fix it.”

Plan International caught the attention of James while she was a student in USF’s human rights education master’s program. “Much of my focus throughout my time in the program and my thesis was on girls’ rights,” says James. As part of her studies, James learned about Plan International’s Because I Am a Girl campaign that, through research, strategic advocacy and programs for youth, provides support to girls throughout the world in moving out of poverty and into a future where they can lead and thrive. Because I Am a Girl, advocates for girls’ rights as human rights. Their work exposes barriers to gender-equality, and works with youth to bring their voices and experiences to the center of the conversations to change these inequities.

In the coming months, James will travel with Plan International to Kenya, the Philippines, Brazil and Pakistan to facilitate workshops she designed in the girl-advocates’ home countries. James credits the human rights education master’s program in preparing her for this work. “[My classes] gave me the opportunity to really explore how to write human rights education workshops that are participatory and engaging for the participants, but also critical and educating for the purpose of furthering people’s rights,” says James. “[It] helped me to gain an understanding of UN processes and systems as well as gain a critical knowledge of human rights and the issues facing girls and women across the globe.”

James’ work with Plan International and, particularly what she has learned from the girl-advocates, spurs her forward in her work to advocate for girls’ rights globally. “The girls spoke so passionately about the issues they and other girls from their communities and countries are facing. I am inspired by these girls and dedicated to continuing to work to see empowered youth change the worlds around them.”