18 October 2021

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Girls are being taught ‘lessons’ they never signed up for.

Every day, girls across the world are told who they should be, what they should look like, how they should act and what they can achieve.

Girls continue to be held back by these outdated ‘lessons’ – the gender stereotypes or assumptions that restrict their lives. These lessons hold weight, and girls have been carrying them since they were born. They are tired. These lessons aren’t theirs and they aren’t going to be weighed down by them anymore.

That’s why player-supported charity Plan International UK used the platform of International Day of the Girl, 11th October, this year to stand with girls as they unlearn these lessons.

The charity conducted a survey with funding raised by People’s Postcode Lottery players which found that two thirds of girls in the UK think that outdated stereotypes are holding them back, with more than half having been told they could not do something that boys or men are allowed to do.

To combat gender stereotypes, Plan International UK released a new campaign film illustrating how the ‘lessons’ girls are learning about how they should live their lives or behave weigh heavily on them – and why we need change.

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‘The Heavy Gown’ film features a young woman struggling under the weight of a gown embroidered with the ‘lessons’ that restrict girls’ lives. The lessons include ‘She’s asking for it’, ‘Women's football is pointless’, ‘No one likes a bossy girl’. Gradually the girl is able to be free of the heavy gown to be who she wants to be.

Funds awarded by the Postcode Justice Trust enable Plan International UK to work with girls around the world to tear down the barriers of discrimination and prejudice that continue to hold them back.

Girls like Bernadette, 23, who coaches the Tigresses – an all-female football team in Mopti, Mali.

She said: "I was always told that football is a man's sport, but I replied by saying that anyone can play it. I would like to call on everyone to encourage those who want to practice it to do so, especially since the popularity of women's football is growing. Please, let your daughters and your sisters play football!"

Bernadette’s talent was spotted during a training session by Plan International’s Kick It project team in 2019. The project supports eight girls’ and women's teams in Mali and holds regular advocacy sessions for the players as well as distributing hygiene kits and conducting educational talks to raise awareness about gender equality.

Imagine a world where girls across the world are able to reach their full potential. Imagine a world where girls are no longer restricted by outdated expectations. Together we can achieve gender equality and help girls thrive in a more equal world.

Over £10 million has been raised for Plan International UK's work by players.

Find out more about how Plan International UK is fighting for girls’ rights.