Big Lottery Fund
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BIG funding supports rights of vulnerable girls

A global children’s charity has today received close to £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to protect girls at risk of forced marriage and female genital mutilation in Sierra Leone.

Plan UK is among six projects sharing over £2.6 funding from Big Lottery Fund’s International Communities programme, which supports projects tackling the causes of poverty and deprivation and the impact they have on people’s lives.

Working in the Bombali District of Sierra Leone, Plan’s My Body My Right project will address gender inequality and serious harmful practices against young women. Women and girls in this location suffer high rates of discrimination and violence and limited rights to education, healthcare and protection. Community meetings will take place in a neutral environment where people can talk about traditional roles in society, rights of men and women and views on male and female sexuality. Traditional chiefs, religious leaders, health workers and teachers will attend these meetings and from these, 135 people who are against harmful practices will be given the role of encouraging discussions and changes within the community. The project will also train staff to work in a safe house for young women fleeing difficult circumstances.

Claire Turgis, West Africa Programme Officer at Plan UK said: “Sierra Leone has some of the highest rates of child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) in the world. In the Northern region, where we will be working, more than half of girls become child brides and nearly all (95 per cent) undergo FGM. These practices leave girls at greater risk of dropping out of school, having children while they are still children themselves, and suffering abuse.

“This funding will allow us to focus on prevention – by working with men, women and children of all ages to protect girls.It will also enable us to strengthen the community’s response – by setting up child welfare committees and improving systems for reporting exploitation.”

Also receiving funding today is Action Aid, which has received close to £491,000 to work in three areas of Somaliland, raising awareness of women’s rights and supporting 1,200 female victims of gender based violence to achieve justice. Women in Somaliland are often effectively voiceless, due to the fact they often have no economic power and very limited education. Men account for almost 90 per cent of land and property owners and only 35 per cent of children enrolled in school are girls.

The project will improve services for victims of gender based violence and lobby for female-friendly facilities in police stations, health centres and law courts. It will also support women to exercise their political ambitions and play an increased role in both local and national politics by training them in political campaigning and supporting them to run for office. Staff will also build relationships with community and religious leaders to promote women's rights and over 3,700 students from local universities will travel around the wider area raising knowledge and understanding of women's legal, political and human rights among fellow students.

Just under £500,000 also goes to Voluntary Service Overseas to work in the Sofala and Manica provinces of Mozambique to improve quality of life for vulnerable people living with, or affected by, HIV and AIDS. The project will work with approximately 3,600 people, including disabled people, female sex workers and their clients, orphans, vulnerable children and carers. Targeted advice sessions will be run for each of these groups and condoms, which are not widely available, will be handed out where appropriate.

The project will also lobby the Government of Mozambique and the National AIDS Council to increase budget allocation for care and support, HIV information and services and equipment and advice for people who care for a loved one from home. Sexual and reproductive health and HIV and AIDS awareness will be raised throughout the area through posters and manuals, community meetings and theatre and radio broadcasts.

Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund UK Chair, said: “The charities are all reaching out to some of the world’s most vulnerable people, who are having to deal with situations we could scarcely begin to imagine. I am delighted to announce this funding today, which will enable the charities to continue with their life saving work, protecting people at risk of violence and discrimination and helping them to uphold their rights face a future that is not ruled by fear.”  

Full list of projects receiving funding today:

Project Beneficiary Locations Amount Awarded
Act On It Sierra Leone £107,334
Health Poverty Action Cambodia £505,000
Plan UK Sierra Leone £499,235
Concern Universal The Gambia £499,315
Voluntary Service Overseas Mozambique £499,857
Action Aid Somaliland £490,703

Further Information

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours media contact: 07867 500 572
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website:
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Notes to Editors

  • The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since June 2004 BIG has awarded over £4.4bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £28 billion has now been raised and more than 383,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.

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