Supporting vulnerable girls to become resilient girls

6 June 2017

Jessica Cooke, Resilience and Climate Change Policy Officer, Plan International

Lesly, from the Piura region of Peru, covers her face in a blanket during the hour long walk through the dusty desert to reach school. A few months ago, floods destroyed her home and forced her family to flee their village. Despite this, the 16-year-old’s aspirations for the future are such that she is determined to reach school from the temporary shelter where she now lives.

After disasters, girls like Lesly want to regain a sense of normalcy and routine. Being able to go back to school and learn with their friends is a huge issue for both their recovery, resilience and their educational needs. However, the Ministry of Education in Peru had to take the difficult decision to delay the start of the new term until just last month, as many roads and school buildings were damaged.

Bringing resilience into education

Plan International’s 3-year Safe Schools Global Programme is helping schoolchildren build resilience post-disaster applying the comprehensive safe school framework (CSSF): safe school facilities, school disaster management and disaster risk reduction (DRR) into the curriculum. Children are taught about different types of risks, how to identify them and what to do if they happen. Over the past three years Plan International has implemented safe school projects in 36 countries and 4,000 schools. Our work has highlighted the need for policies in the education sector which are risk informed and based on vulnerability analyses.

There are strong references to comprehensive school safety throughout the Sendai Framework and the goals of the comprehensive safe schools approach are consistent with four of the Sendai Framework’s seven targets:

  • Ensuring physical safety for children and adults in schools (Target 1 & 2)
  • Educational continuity (Target 4)
  • Safeguarding education sector investments (Target 3)
  • Developing a culture of safety.

Disaster risk reduction measures work

It is vital for girls’ development that building resilience is an integral part of any disaster response. Encouraging girls to be involved in the response efforts, be part of the decision-making processes, understanding and identifying both existing and potential new risks, and having access and opportunity to provide feedback is one way of reducing their vulnerability to future disasters. However, this must continue once the response period is over as resilience-building is a process, rather than a one-time effort. We are already seeing through for example projects in Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines, that where we have been building the resilience of communities and children, the effects of disasters on them has been reduced.

Plan International had been working with the Balangkayan community on DRR measures before Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013. In the municipality, hundreds of homes were destroyed but there were zero casualties.

After Typhoon Haiyan, child-centred organisations including Plan International, conducted an analysis of all policies that touched on DRR and children. The results showed that there was no policy that adequately incorporated the unique vulnerabilities of children during disasters. The massive disaster was a wakeup call for government departments in the Philippines to review their policies and ensure children are protected. This ‘window of opportunity’ resulted in the Philippines government developing new legislation – the Children in Emergencies law mandating local government units to collect data that shows the impact of disasters on children, find alternative evacuation centres, and prioritise the unique needs of children during and after disasters.

Ensuring girls voices are heard

At the end of May, 11 DRR experts from Plan International have attended the first Global Platform for DRR since the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. Plan International was at the conference to speak out on behalf of girls around the world to ensure their voices are heard in the implementation and monitoring of the framework at global, national and local levels.

Plan International’s session at the Global Platform, Strengthening resilience for and with young people, focussed on the benefits of including children and youth in DRR decision-making processes and how building the capacities of local partners, children and families, can give young people the foundations to fully participate.

If we can build the resilience of girls, who are among the most vulnerable, then we can build the resilience of anyone and everyone.


[1] With the Children in a Changing Climate coalition and UN Major Group for Children and Youth

This post was co-authorted with Gloria Garcia, Disaster Risk Management Specialist at Plan International


Jessica Cooke works for Plan International headquarters in the Disaster Risk Management Department, specifically on climate change and resilience. Jessica also leads Plan International’s 3-year Safe Schools Global Programme in 36 countries.

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