This report forms part of Plan International’s Real Choices, Real Lives longitudinal, qualitative research study – which is following the lives of girls living in nine countries* around the world from their birth (in 2006), until they turn 18 (in 2024).
This unique study looks in-depth at the experiences of girls as they grow up, offering genuine insights into the choices, decisions and realities that shape their lives as well as expectations of what they can be, and do from the moment they are born.
In 2019, a set of regional reports were compiled taking an in-depth look at how – as the girls enter adolescence – they are noticing, questioning, and in some instances, rejecting expectations around their behaviour and roles across different areas of their lives. From relationships and children, to playing football and future careers, we found that all 35 Cohort girls across Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador are challenging expectations of girls in their communities. For the girls in in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador, we also saw that:
Early adolescence is a significant period of identity formation alongside heightened awareness of gendered norms, making it a critical point for interventions to disrupt gender inequitable attitudes and practices in positive ways.
The process of questioning gendered expectations is not linear – but varies over time and in different areas of girls’ lives (i.e., at one point in time, a girl may question expectations, but later appear to conform).
Girls’ social contexts and social influences at the household and wider community level are significant in forming, or breaking, gendered social expectations – with key female role models and extended family members playing a prominent role.