New UN Report Highlights Rise Up’s Success Working with Girls in Guatemala and Malawi

By Claudia Romeu, Senior Program Manager

Rise Up is honored to be featured in When Children Take The Lead, a new report created by the Office of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence Against Children. In a series of case studies, the report analyzes how civil society organizations, NGOs, and governments can successfully engage children as active participants in advocating for their rights. The report highlights Rise Up’s work with girls in Malawi and Guatemala to prevent child marriage and sexual violence as examples of successful child-led advocacy. 

Rise Up supported adult leaders from local organizations, the Girls’ Empowerment Network in Malawi, and Asociación Renacimiento in Guatemala, to work with adolescent girls to develop their leadership skills, identify the issues most important to them, and advocate for their own solutions to those issues. In Malawi, girl leaders worked with village chiefs and traditional leaders to mobilize their community and advocate successfully for a national ban on child marriage. In Guatemala, girl leaders utilized facts and statistics to successfully advocate with local officials to create a municipal-level watchdog organization to ensure better reporting mechanisms and improve municipal response to sexual violence. The report notes that a key reason for the success of these projects was the involvement of girls “as leaders and decisionmakers at every step” of the advocacy process in both countries. 

This kind of girl-led advocacy is central to Rise Up’s model for creating large-scale change. We know that girls are powerful and when we support them — to understand their rights, raise their voices about the challenges they face, and invest in their solutions — girls transform their lives, their families, their communities, and the world.

Our own successes and the data both demonstrate that girls are the world’s greatest possible return on investment. Research demonstrates that investing in girls is the most cost-effective strategy we have to improve global health, economic, and development outcomes. For example, when 10% more girls go to school, the country’s national GDP goes up by 3%. And yet, World Bank research demonstrates that only 2 cents of every dollar in international aid spending goes to girls, and only 7 cents goes to girls and women. Despite knowing the tremendous benefits of investing in this population, we have a long way to go.

Find the full report here (the Rise Up case study begins on page 12) and an excerpt from the report below:

“Rise Up’s model stands out for enabling girls to be the ultimate designers and leaders of their advocacy goals. The implementing organizations invest time and resources in encouraging girls to reflect upon their ecosystems and identify for themselves the issues of greatest importance for them and their peers. Both Rise Up and their partner organizations understand the value of identifying the drive and motivation for participation, and, most importantly, transferring power and control to children and adolescents so they can take the lead and become agents of change within their own lives.

The model also relies strongly on a peer-to-peer approach, understanding that only girls can transmit that level of stimulation to other girls. Rise Up truly empowers girl leaders so they can, in turn, empower their peers.

The training delivered by adults is thorough and comprehensive, and it understands the different areas of information girls need. It also displays understanding of the role adults need to play in such forms of participation: that of guiding and protecting girls throughout their process. 

Finally, the model stands out for using girls’ experiences as the main source of data for approaching authorities. It recognizes that quantitative data need to be complimented by qualitative, deep information with a strong emotional content to bridge the relationship between decision makers and adolescent girls.”

Girls are already leading the way — they are activists, leaders, and strong advocates. Even while so many girls face enormous challenges and are marginalized by oppressive systems around the world, girls have the courage, the smarts, the resilience, and the determination to change their lives, their communities, and their countries. That’s why Rise Up provides girls and their allies training, tools, funding, and networks to amplify their voices and expand their impacts…then we step aside to let girls do what they already know how to do — lead.