At a time when the major political, climatic and social issues intersect and transcend generations, the question of youth involvement in decision-making processes appears more and more as a necessity. The question of method then arises: how can we ensure that the voice of young people is heard and recognized? The figure of the role model, whose fairly recent appearance in the social field is concomitant with the incursion of young people into the public debate, gives a certain media visibility to their demands. The NGO Plan International, which works for the protection and recognition of children’s rights in 75 countries, has naturally looked into these new figures of commitment: who are they? How are they characterized? How can they, on their own scale, contribute to the emergence of a 3Zero world?

For more than 80 years, Plan International has worked around the world to protect children, advocate for their rights and support their engagement in society. The NGO also promotes youth activism on issues as diverse as education, gender equality, the fight against all forms of violence and citizenship. “Activism allows young people to acquire skills, experience and networks, to become empowered and independent. This is particularly true for girls who can develop their self-confidence, their ambitions and their leadership”, summarizes Anne Bideau, Managing Director of Plan International France.

Among the various tools to involve youth in decision-making processes and give them political representation in society are role models. Plan International France will address this topic during the 3Zero World Forum on September 2. These figures, generally young and often female, militate for a cause that they embody, sometimes in spite of themselves, setting an example and thus drawing in their wake other people who recognize themselves in them. “We must encourage the emergence and visibility of female role models in all their diversity. This is essential to encourage girls to become agents of change,” explains Michelle Perrot, the NGO’s Director of Advocacy and Youth Engagement.

Although they are sources of inspiration, role models are also the target of much criticism and their hyper-mediatization exposes them to various forms of violence and exclusion, such as harassment, which are often exacerbated against female figures. “We will not let radical socialists destroy the economy of our country (…) We do not need these prophets of doom,” replied Donald Trump to Greta Thunberg at the Davos Forum in 2020. Social networks are also spaces of harassment. Although young people are better connected, girls and young women are more exposed to this violence: up to 27 times more than boys and men. It is the responsibility of those who work alongside them – institutions, media, private sector, civil society… – to ensure their physical and moral protection.

Finally, are role models even taken seriously by decision-makers when they speak out?

The vehemence with which certain authority figures – often the most conservative – castigate and discredit the words of role models demonstrates that committed young people are indeed gaining ground in the political and societal field. The NGO Plan International supports with its partners the militancy of young people for a world of Zero Exclusion, Zero Carbon, Zero Poverty. Come and meet us on September 2, 2021 at 11:30 am at the Palais Brongniart to debate and continue the reflection on role models!

75 countries where the NGO is active

84 years of existence of the NGO in the world

1838 development and emergency projects carried out by the NGO

3M girls supported to become active citizens

27M girls assisted through our programs