To celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, Plan International has organised more than 5,200 Girls Takeover campaigns globally since 2016. By occupying spaces where young girls are rarely seen or heard, they demand actions and solutions to ensure all girls can learn, lead, decide and thrive. In Hong Kong, the 3rd Girls Takeover was held successfully with the collaboration of the Consulate General of Finland in Hong Kong and Macao and the Finnish Chamber of Commerce. This campaign allowed participants to take over two of the senior management roles of the day and to advocate gender equality in the workplace.
This year, the theme of the Girls Takeover is “Equal Power”, aiming to change the perceptions around what is possible for girls and young women as decision-makers, leaders, and change-makers. Finland has a long history of endorsing and mainstreaming gender equality, and it has achieved a gender parity ranking of 2nd worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum’s global assessment. Plan International Hong Kong is pleased to collaborate with the Consulate General of Finland in Hong Kong and Macao and the Finnish Chamber in Hong Kong this year. Thus, we have given young girls the valuable opportunity to work with senior management and exchange views about the implementation of gender equality in Hong Kong and Finland.
Gigi as the Consul General, Consulate General of Finland in Hong Kong and Macao
Gigi, a year 3 student majoring in Global Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, was selected to take over the position of Timo Kantola, the Consul General of Finland in Hong Kong. On the day of the event, she met with the staff from the Consulate General and the European Union Office in Hong Kong and Macao and advocated that the institutions should enhance the awareness of gender equality in the workplace and society in Hong Kong through education and publicity.
Gigi’ report on Girls Takeover
Going to the university during COVID-19 meant losing many in-person work and event opportunities. I was not getting the full experience of forming new connections, making important decisions and breaking from being a teenager into an adult. Thankfully, the Girls Takeover helped me to realise and fully utilise my strengths to create a fruitful, unforgettable experience.
I started with a challenge: I underestimated the Finland Consulate’s gender-friendly practices. Going for the site visit aiming to introduce gender-neutral practices, I was dumbfounded to find that they had already followed those guidelines—males were even the “minority” in numbers in the workplace! It was inspiring—life and work throw unexpected events at you, and learning to adjust and think on your feet are valuable lessons you seldom learn at school.
The event was a success. Consul General Timo was incredibly nice to me, he even proposed a little role-play: he would quit his position and I would step in. During the staff meeting with members of the consulate, I felt comfortable, respected and appreciated; they all listened intently to my speech, took notes, gave valuable opinions with regard to their departments, and even chatted about their personal lives.
Timo always gave me the reins to speak, even at the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). Despite not rehearsing beforehand, we all shared our personal experiences and knowledge complementing the information from EOC, e.g., comparisons of parenting life between Finland and Hong Kong, sexual harassment cases we knew of etc. Learning about the concrete challenges Hong Kong women face inspired me to continue the fight for local gender equality.
My favourite part of the day was the business lunch with the staff from the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao. Apart from the delicious food, cultural exchange over lunch withDanish, German, Belgian, and Finnish perspectives on being a woman. Everyone contributed to the round table discussion and even planned follow-up activities which I might be part of!
All in all, everyone I met treated me as a colleague whom they respected, instead of a little girl doing a roleplay. The Girls Takeover inspired me to continue the fight and to pay attention to inequality and misogyny around us. Being an advocate is more than professional qualifications; it also takes passion and a thirst for change. Sharing the personal experience of being a girl in this city is beneficial enough to the cause: Never refrain from doing anything just because it seems trivial (勿因善少而不為). Pennies make a dime!
Cynthia as the Executive Director, Finnish Chamber of Commerce
Cynthia, a final year student majoring in English Language and Literature at Hong Kong Shue Yan University, was selected to work with Otto Tunturi, Executive Director at the Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. On the day of the event, she met with the board to advise them to include a menstruation-friendly policy in their strategic plan. She also met with corporate members from several business sectors, such as Kone and ISS, to advocate the implementation of menstruation-friendly policies.
Cynthia’s report on Girls Takeover
Gender-related topics have always been upheld in almost every course that I have taken. Although I am constantly exposed to the ideas of gender construction and inequality, I have never had an opportunity to arouse others’ awareness towards these issues, let alone take practical action to improve the situation. Hence, I am truly grateful for being offered the opportunity to speak out for gender equality.
I have learnt and gained a lot from the Girls Takeover campaign. It is true that the campaign lasted only for a month, but I saw myself becoming better throughout the process. Although a sense of awareness came along, I did not have a concrete picture of how a good presentation was supposed to be at the beginning. With the huge support from the staff at Plan International Hong Kong, the picture gradually became clearer and I was eventually able to present and pitch in a way that was close to that picture in my mind. Admittedly, the presentation that was given on the event day was far from great, but I gained confidence in myself to be able to make improvements every time I rehearsed the presentation.
Other than the performances, preparing the strategic plan for the board meeting is another part that is challenging. As a language major, I have a limited understanding of business terms. In this sense, it is rather difficult for me to understand the concept of a strategic plan and construct one within a short period of time. Yet, challenges are always involved in the learning process and, adaptation is the key. The process of understanding the struggles and dealing with the challenges drove me to learn and grow.
Not only has the Girls Take Over campaign given me a chance to explore the issues of diversity & inclusion, discrimination, and gender equality, but it has also given me the confidence and aspiration to go a step further and make changes. Hopefully, I can make a difference again by making good use of the knowledge I have gained.