Nicola Hughes, Senior Corporate Partnerships Manager at Plan International UK.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and should not be taken to be those of the Young Health Programme or any other organisation.
Plan International is one of the Young Health Programms’s founder partners, working on major YHP programmes globally and this year, as part of our collaboration, we worked with AstraZeneca to deliver ‘Girls Takeovers’ in Kenya, Indonesia and Vietnam. These events are part of our celebration of International Day of the Girl 2020 which was held on 11 October. The Day was officially adopted by the United Nations in 2011 after a campaign that we led and acts as a launch pad for action on girls’ rights. Plan International’s Girls Takeovers provide a call to action for social and political change to tear down the barriers of discrimination and prejudice that continue to hold girls back. They give girls an opportunity to have their voices heard and be a part of decision-making processes as they step into political and business leadership roles.
In 2020, the Girls Takeover concept was applied to three YHP programmes, with girls from the projects taking over the role of senior AstraZeneca managers for a day, whilst also providing AstraZeneca with an opportunity to hear the youth perspective completely unfiltered.
In Kenya, Nancy, 23, a YHP peer educator shadowed Arpit Bansal, AstraZeneca Director for Sub Sahara Africa. She took Arpit’s seat at the head of the table and chaired the morning meeting - briefing the team on how she has created change in her community and ensured young people continued to receive vital youth-friendly Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) prevention information during the COVID-19 pandemic. She emphasised how important it is to listen to young people and understand their needs when accessing NCD prevention information.
On the Takeover Arpit said, “it gives girls opportunities to showcase to the world their potential. It also motivates them that this is a world full of possibilities and they should pursue their dreams.” Nancy has come away inspired - “I can sit in a seat of responsibilities and decision making. I have come to understand that I have that power within me. I am going to stir it up!”
In Indonesia, Novi,17, took over the position of Dr. Hery Hery, Head of Medical and Project Lead on Diversity and Inclusion at AstraZeneca Indonesia. Novi used the company-wide townhall meeting to address all staff stressing the importance of ‘diversity as power’ and the need for organisations to provide safe spaces for employees to speak up. Se Whan Chon, Country President AstraZeneca Indonesia, picked up on Novi’s comments on the challenges of speaking up in some cultures. For him it provided a reminder that “if you don’t say anything, nothing will happen.”
In Vietnam, fifteen female YHP peer educators from universities and high schools in Hanoi joined directors from AstraZeneca Vietnam to develop a work plan to take over positions, including Human Resources Manager and the Director of the Pharmaceutical Branches. They immersed themselves in the roles and took on their day-to-day activities.
One of the girls participating in the Takeover commented, “Never before have we had such an exciting and meaningful experience. Through this time we explored a lot of our abilities. We're half of the world and we're going to do a lot of work!"
Experiences like these can provide young people with the tools, skills and confidence to change their life. It can often lead to incredible opportunities such as internships, work experience and mentoring opportunities.
Thanks to all the teams and AstraZeneca leaders who made the International Day of the Girl 2020 a huge success for the Young Health Programme – watch this space for many more takeovers in 2021, and who knows, maybe one day these young health advocates may find themselves working their way up to a position of leadership at AstraZeneca!