Female Leader Conversations Feature Susanne Legena CEO Plan International Australia said, “If I had to choose just one way to achieve gender equality, it would be to educate a girl. We know this is transformative for individuals, communities and countries.”
Susanne Legena’s career is anchored in positive social impact. Previously Chief of Staff for the Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources & the Arts, Susanne was appointed CEO Plan International Australia in 2017. She passionately believes that problems like poverty, gender equality and climate change can be solved through our collective efforts, and is striving for a world where all children have the opportunity and resources to achieve their innate potential.
What are Plan International’s key programs?
Plan International is a global independent development and humanitarian organisation. We recognise that there is nowhere in the world where girls are treated as equals. We work alongside children, young people, supporters and partners to tackle root causes of the injustices facing girls and the most marginalised children.
We have been a respected child sponsorship organisation for more than 80 years and have expanded to work on multiple fronts, with programs ranging from provision of food, responding to natural disasters, early childhood education and birth registration, to advocacy programs that challenge menstruation taboo or ending child marriage.
CHAMPIONING GIRLS’ RIGHTS
How does Plan International do this in Australia and globally?
Plan International globally is committed to turning the dial on the shocking inequality faced by girls in every country in the world. For too long, girls have been invisible in the statistics. We simply haven’t known the extent of the challenges they face.
Now we’re getting a very clear picture thanks to the Equal Measures data tracking project, run by Plan International in partnership with some heavy-hitters in the development world, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Now we have this evidence, we can use it to work with partners and to hold governments to account.
In every one of our 76 country and national offices in the Plan federation, we’ve put girls at the centre of our advocacy efforts. We promote young women and girls’ lived experiences and amplify their hopes and change they want to see.
CHALLENGING STRUCTURAL BARRIERS
What needs to change to accelerate gender equality?
With just 11 years to go until the deadline is up on the Sustainable Development Goals, not a single country in the world is fully transforming their laws, policies or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030.
We are failing to deliver on the promises of gender equality for literally billions of girls and women.
We need to connect efforts with private business, organisations like Plan International, governments and importantly, with coalitions of men so we can put our collective shoulders to the wheel and push hard to shift that dial.
But if I had to choose just one most impactful way to achieve gender equality, it would be to educate a girl. We know this is transformative for individuals, communities and countries.
Tell us how you work with MindTribes and Whole Kids.
Whole Kids has helped us to deliver half a million meals to primary school students in Cambodia, using nutrition as a mechanism to keep kids in school. Their co-founder Monica Meldrum recently visited these programs with her daughter and was overwhelmed at the impact this program has had on girls’ rights.
MindTribes Founders Div and Vick Pillay, as well as donating 10 per cent of their profits to Plan and our work championing girls’ rights, are also ambassadors on our behalf. They champion our cause at every opportunity to help educate other businesses on the need to invest in girls.
We need partners like these, who are respectful and treat the communities that we work in as more than a marketing opportunity. It has to deliver real benefit to girls and their communities.