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Study reveals climate change is the most pressing issue for girls and women

Australian girls and young women are passionate about leading the way to solve huge global problems.

When Swedish teen Greta Thunberg started campaigning for stronger political action on climate change, she spent her Fridays sitting outside Swedish parliament. Armed with a homemade that stated, “School strike for the climate”, Greta was soon joined by other passionate students.  

In just a year, her call for stronger political action on climate change has grown to a massive series of protests attracting millions of people in 150 countries.  

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But Greta isn’t the only teen girl wanting world leaders to take climate change more seriously. According to a new survey on more than 1,400 Australian girls and young women, climate change is a bigger threat to society and future generations than violence against women and poverty. 

Passionate about positive change

Evie Haultain, 16, says the results highlight the “immense political awareness of women and young girls”, which is encouraged by seeing female leaders represented in politics and media. “Representation is crucial,” she says.

Plan International Australia teamed up with Vox Populi Research to find out how girls and young women around Australia view girls’ empowerment, leadership, role-models, and girls tackling big social and global problems. The report was published in time for International Day of the Girl. 

Of the 1,461 girls and young women in the survey, 53% believed that climate change was the biggest issue facing society and their futures. This was followed by violence against women, gender inequality and poverty. 

RELATED: climate change is fundamentally altering young people’s identity

While 91% of the Australian girls and young women aged 12-25 said they were passionate about being leaders for positive change, only 81% felt confident in their abilities to achieve this. 

Evie, who is a youth activist with Plan International, says that she can relate to the findings. 

“As a young girl, I never really felt like I could make an impact,” she says. “It breaks my heart that girls still feel they aren’t heard or that their voices don’t matter.”

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Almost a quarter of the survey respondents said that sexism was the main thing standing in the way of women and girls becoming leaders of change, followed by a lack of education, confidence and opportunities to lead. 

When the girls and young women were asked what they wanted to see for girls around the world, one in three said that they wished for gender equality. Putting an end to harassment, providing free education and addressing climate change were not far behind this wish. 

The girls and young women also reported that Jacinda Ardern, Malala Yousazfai and Emma Watson were the role models they looked up to the most. 

Evie points out that that giving girls and young women greater opportunities is crucial to solving global problems, from inequality to climate change. 

“Women have everything to contribute to society,” says Evie. “How can we solve anything without the contributions of half of the world’s population?”

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