Etsy’s passionate community of makers and sellers is collaborating with Plan International on the Because I am a Girl campaign. Meet the women and girls around the world whose lives have been changed by Plan’s work.
Shipu’s workshop can be found down a little street in the heaving city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. You have to know about her to find it. And people do. In the tiny shop, colourful fabrics line the walls. And her creativity can be seen all over them. She is running a small business in block printing, turning commonly used fabrics into beautiful works of art. Shipu has always had a creative flair, but just needed the support to let it free. She plays a type of Bangladesh accordion, sings, and writes poetry. And all day she carefully dips locally made wood blocks into paint and decorates fabrics, loved by local women. “I want to teach my skills to younger women like me — we need to preserve craft and art in this city.” When most women end up working in garment factories, Shipu is working hard to keep local crafts alive. “I can’t thank Plan enough for this opportunity.”
Through Plan International’s Youth Economic Empowerment Project, Shipu is learning business skills, and has been set up with a business mentor to manage her accounts.
For a girl in Australia, the day she gets her period can be confronting. For a girl in rural Uganda, that day can be terrifying — and means they might drop out ofs chool altogether. These girls live in a world where reproductive health is taboo . It’s not discussed at school or at home — and they are often completely unaware of what is happening to their bodies and how to care for themselves. On top of that, many girls don’t know about sanitary pads and even if they do, can rarely afford to buy them.
As a result, girls like Christine are completely vulnerable and left to guess how to manage their period. So when it’s that time of month, the shame of leakage and discomfort means school is the last thing on their mind.
“I found a piece of carpet somewhere so I washed it and used it,” Christine explains. She then had leaks at school and was teased by boys in her class.
“I feared from that time that people would laugh at me forever. I was always getting out of class, I was uncomfortable, I couldn’t concentrate and I was always checking my dress.”
Thanks to Plan International’s Period Project, Christine is going to school with comfort and dignity. She is using comfortable and breathable pads that can be washed and used again. She’s also learning about how to manage her period. “I can run, I can dance, I can do everything.”
Plan International is making available AfriPads, reusable and affordable pads for girls in Uganda. We are also helping girls understand their period, learn how to manage it — keeping them in school.
On the outskirts of Siem Reap, Cambodia, 13-year-old Sokhat and her mother Khon live in a hut made from bamboo and palm leaves, just big enough for them to sleep and cook.
When storms pass through, the hut shakes. “I just wait and hold my daughter tight,” Khon says. Sokhat is Khon’s only child; her pride and joy — and while she owns little more than the small hut and the clothes on her back, she would give the world to Sokhat if she could. “If I had money I would give it to Sokhat for her to get snacks,” she says, “but I don’t.”
Today is a good day for Sokhat and her mother Khon. A large bag of rice and a tin of oil has just arrived at their home, which provides them with two months’ worth of meals. “I like my mum’s cooking,” Sokhat says. “She uses the rice and cooks vegetables and sometimes fish.” Not only is Sokhat eating well at home, at school she receives breakfast every day before class too. “After breakfast I feel full. It’s good. It tastes good too.” What Sokhat doesn’t realise, is that without this food support, she would be forced to skip meals, and even be made to work.
“This program has changed my life and it helps my daughter go to school,” says Kohn. “If Sokhat didn’t get a daily breakfast at school, I would have to prepare it for her. So I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about that.”
Through Plan International’s School Feeding project, Sokhat receives a daily breakfast at school and a ration of rice and oil to use at home.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, the average young woman is faced with limited options — to survive, she’s either coerced into marriage before she’s ready, forced into work under poor conditions for minimum wage or less, or living in extreme poverty. But in a small village on the outskirts of the city, one young woman’s drive and creativity has been harnessed. Now, 18-year-old Nipa is her own boss.
Nipa decided she didn’t want to work in garment factories, but wanted to manufacture motorcycle grips — a product that’s in high demand in a bustling city like Dhaka — with her cousin. “I am involving my whole family in the production of grips from our home,” Nipa explains with an enormous, confident smile. “We produce around 300 pairs a day, and take them to market.” She employs her parents and siblings, who all sit together, as they slice up foam materials, glue the strips together for malleability, and use an electric tool to mould each grip into a sturdy product. Much like a production line seen in the factories across the river, Nipa’s family members are each playing their part to keep the business growing. “I feel independent and confident and now I can move around whenever I want, with permission from my parents — I can buy what I like, and eat what I like,” Nipa says. “Compared to many women my age, I’m free.” Sometimes Nipa spots her handlebar grips on motorbikes on the street. “It’s exciting when I see my motorbike grips used by local people,” she says. “Sometimes I stop to tell people that I made the grips myself.”
Lamana is one of an estimated ten million girls worldwide who will marry each year before they are 18. Some as young as eight years old.
She has shown that with the right opportunities younger generations can play a large part in the development of their communities. Hers is one story but the message is universal — give a girl access to an equal education and you not only empower her, but her family and her community. Above all else, it’s her human right.
“I felt very uncomfortable when it was announced the day of my wedding … I wanted to kill myself. I was thinking ‘how can I invite my friends to a forced marriage?’ I refused all of the ceremonies because I didn’t want to be a part of that,” says Lamana. Soon after, Lamana found herself in a marriage that wasn’t just uncomfortable — it was life threatening.
One morning, as dawn was breaking, she gathered her things, walked out the front door and left her husband. Her body was wounded with bruises and cuts from a beating she had received the previous night. Her husband had threatened her with a knife and she feared for her life. This situation wasn’t uncommon in her marriage — she was often beaten and raped for refusing sex or simply leaving the house — but her decision to leave was. She walked to her parents’ house and when they opened the door she demanded to come home. She was 15 years old.
Soon after she walked out, she was given the opportunity to attend college, where she is completing a Computer Science degree and gaining confidence and invaluable life skills.
Lamana and thousands of girls like her are discovering the importance of education and learning that they have rights — equal to their brothers — through Plan’s work.
About the collaboration
Etsy and Plan International Australia have created the #makeforgood collection featuring carefully crafted, handmade goods. Think one-of-a-kind jewellery, bespoke artworks, unique homewares and special stationery.
A minimum of 20% of sales from the collection will be donated to our Because I am a Girl campaign, which helps empower girls to lift themselves — and their entire communities — out of poverty.
By purchasing a #makeforgood item, you’ll help Etsy sellers achieve their goal of providing 150 young women like Shipu with a grant to start their own businesses.
Help us change the world for girls. Shop the collection.