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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Being a girl in Ireland vs Being a girl in Sierra Leone

The ‘Her Story’ exhibition explores the similarities and differences.

AS THE SECOND International Day of the Girl approaches, children’s charity Plan Ireland has explored the similarities and differences between growing up in Ireland and Sierra Leone.

In a new exhibition, opened yesterday by the charity’s ambassadors Cherie Blair and Laura Whitmore, images of 36 girls highlight the different living conditions and schooling opportunities afforded young women, depending on where they are born.

The subjects are aged between 0 and 17 years and they are shown in their natural environs.

According to Plan Ireland, the “familiarity of Irish scenes convey a fascinating contrast to the images from girls in Sierra Leone which show the similarities, but also the differences of girls in both countries”.

At last night’s event, a new report outlining how girls are disproportionately impacted when natural disasters strike was also launched.

It shows that the rate of prostitution and unwanted pregnancies significantly increases in areas hit by natural disasters. A focus on the fallout from Haitian earthquake provides more evidence of this.

The exhibition, displayed at Powerscourt Towncentre in Dublin’s city centre, pairs up girls from Ireland and Sierra Leone.

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This is 10-year-old Sinéad from Laois, pictured in her family home which she shares with brothers Robert and Evan. She attends a small school where 4th, 5th and 6th class share the same room. She loves to act and secured the main part in the annual school play this year.

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Fatamata is also 10. She lives in Masumana, Koya in central Sierra Leone where about 150 children receive support by Plan Ireland sponsors. In her picture, she is playing 'Tyre', a popular game in the country which requires the person in control to run as fast as they can while guiding the tyre carefully in front. She also loves playing with her dog Lumba and she attends school.

The Plan Ireland team recently met Fatamat who told them that being a girl means she is "someone of assistance".

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Six-year-old Emily lives with her family - and their chickens - in Cork. She loves reading, tennis and maths. When she grows up, she wants to be a bus driver 'just like her grandfather'.

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Ramatu, who is also six years old, lives in Makamen in central Sierra Leone which is about two hours away from the nearest main road. The agricultural village is plagued by malaria, a leading cause of infant mortality across the country.

Before she allowed Plan Ireland take her picture, she rushed off to change out of her football jersey and into this green outfit. Reading and sports are her favourite pastimes.

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At 17, Megan from Dublin is the oldest of the Irish participants in the exhibition. She has just started preparing for her Leaving Certificate exams. Her favourite subject is Chemistry but is not quite sure what she wants to do next - maybe study to be a vet or a teacher or a psychologist.

She loves horses and horseriding and looks after her horse Ronnie most weekends. She has volunteered with Plan Ireland and competed in last year's Flora Women's Mini Marathon as part of its Because I Am A Girl team.

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Zainah is from Freetown and is the oldest Sierra Leonean in the exhibition. She is pictured outside her home which is built from scaffolding and scrap metal. She lives with her two brothers and four sisters. Her parents have both died - her dad was killed in the civil war and her mam passed away during childbirth.

She is now the woman of the household and a mother-figure to her siblings.

The rest of the images for the exhibition can be seen at Powerscourt Townhouse in Dublin's city centre.

Read: Sinéad O’Connor writes an open letter to TD who said she is ‘mad as a brush’

More: ‘A credit to the Assad regime’: US welcomes Syria’s chemical weapons disposal

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