Juhana Vartiainen and Aliina Ruuttunen.

Plan International’s #GirlsTakeover puts youth in mayor’s seat for a day

In association with the International Day of the Girl on 11 October, the charity Plan International will arrange a #GirlsTakeover event that will see young women around the world taking over positions of political, social and financial leadership. This year’s takeover will highlight the impact of the economy on equality and girls’ rights.

This year’s #GirlsTakeover participants in Finland will take over for the country’s Minister of Finance Annika Saarikko, Mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen, Editor-in-Chief of the financial magazine Talouselämä Jussi Kärki, Stora Enso President and CEO Annica Bresky, Insurance and pension company LähiTapiola’s CEO Juha Koponen and PwC Finland’s CEO Mikko Nieminen.

The youth taking over these important positions for the day are Idun Söderlund (15) from the city of Lappeenranta, Aliina Ruuttunen (18) from Jyväskylä, Sofia Salminen (18) from Huittinen, Elli Haaramo (18) from Helsinki, Eedit Ojala (15) from Ilmajoki and Venla Taubert (16) from Tampere.

This year marks the sixth time that Plan International’s #GirlsTakeover has been arranged in Finland.

"Plan's #GirlsTakeover campaign is a good reminder that even though Finland is internationally thought of as a model country of equality, we still have a lot to do at different levels of our society. The participation and competence of women and girls both in the economy and in working life increases the wellbeing and prosperity of our entire community. We fortify the common good when we have different kinds of people in a wide range of positions at all levels of society. When we treat each other in the same way, as experts and colleagues – regardless of gender or background – women and girls become free to pursue their dreams in different societal sectors without attitudinal or structural limitations,” says Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen.

The theme of this year’s #GirlsTakeover is girls, the economy and equality. Equality is a question of human rights, but it also correlates strongly with economic growth. The more equal the country, the higher the gross domestic product. And the impact goes both ways: equality affects the economy, and the economy affects equality.

"The position I will be taking over is important in terms of this year's economy theme, as well. The Mayor of Helsinki's responsibilities include many things that are related to the city's economy, such as drawing up the budget and making sure people comply with it. I hope the #GirlsTakeover day will inspire dialogue and make people more aware of equality issues. We need to support the realization of girls' rights both in Finland and around the world," said Aliina Ruuttunen, who will take over the mayor's seat on 4 October.

Policy makers, public authorities, institutions and businesses can take action to promote equality and improve the opportunities of girls and women to achieve financial independence. In each takeover, the economy theme will be covered slightly differently. In companies, for example, the young girls taking over will also highlight the impact on the economy of equality and diversity in working life and the financial sector.

Frequent crises hit girls particularly hard

Globally, girls still have fewer opportunities for education and employment than boys because their future is not considered worth investing in.

"Work performed by girls and women remains too often unpaid and invisible due to the lack of appreciation. In the current economic system, equal opportunities to earn enough and achieve financial independence are preconditions for girls and women to be able to make decisions about their own lives,” says Ossi Heinänen, National Director of Plan International Finland.

People in leadership positions can take action to ensure that the position of girls is also secured during times of crisis. Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has lasted for more than two years; the war in Ukraine and the consequent sharp rise in prices; and the climate crisis have had the strongest impact on those who are most vulnerable. The global hunger crisis deepened by these frequent crises hits girls and their families in developing countries hardest.

“Girls are taken out of school before boys if the parents can’t afford the school fees for all of their children. The number of child marriages has begun to increase in several countries as parents have had to resort to extreme means of survival to put food on the table,” Heinänen says.

#GirlsTakeover gives the girls an opportunity to genuinely and significantly influence the decisions made during the takeover day. Globally, girls have taken over thousands of leadership positions in a total of 70 countries since 2016.

Further information

The article was published on 15 September and updated on 3 October.