WASHINGTON, D.C.– The Girls Count Act of 2013 is a nonpartisan bill sponsored by United States Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH.) It was introduced October 30, 2013 to be taken into consideration by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The Girls Count Act gives the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the authorization to do two things. The first is to support programs that will aid in bettering civil registration and vital statistics systems with birth registration as the focal point. The second is to promote programs that help developing countries establish national and local legal and policy frameworks that protect women and girls.
The improved policy frameworks prevent gender discrimination and enable girls to better obtain property rights, social security, land tenure and their rights to inheritance.
A Call for Support
United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin expressed the importance of the Girls Count Act. Calvin explained that girls accounted for by their government will have a greater access to education, health and social services as well as the ability to vote, work and own property.
The Girls Count Act allows girls to have the resources necessary for them to make valuable contributions to society and become leaders in their communities.
Calvin commended Chabot and Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Betty McCollum (D-MN) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) for sponsoring the Girls Count Act. She stated that the bill will make accounting for girls a priority on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. The Girls Count Act empowers children to take an active role in society and have opportunities, no matter their gender.
The Girls Count Act has found support among thousands of U.S. youths through the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign. Youths have been contacting congressional members to encourage them to make girls’ rights a foreign policy priority.
Calvin pointed out the dire need for a bill like the Girls Count Act to become law. The Girls Count Act is integral to eradicating poverty, preventing human trafficking and shaping a world that is both just and peaceful.
Why Girls Need Support
Congressional data shows that girls are the majority of the yearly 51 million children under the age of 5 who are not registered at birth. Without documentation, girls and women are hindered from participation in formal economic, legal and political sectors in their birth countries.
A passport, driver’s license or national identification card cannot be obtained without official proof of birth. Birth certificates are necessary documentation of a child’s citizenship, nationality, parentage, place of birth and age as congressional data details.
Women and girls are severely limited by the predicament of not being registered. The disadvantage restricts them to domestic duties with no income. Impoverished families depend on the girls for domestic labor. Girls from poor families must carry water, harvest crops, tend to livestock, care for the younger children and complete the daily chores. Unregistered girls and women have no representation and they become marginalized.
Effective foreign assistance and domestic social welfare programs cannot be developed without official information on the female population. Information about access to education, poverty levels and census must be accurately assessed to make efforts successful.
The Girls Count Act addresses the special needs of girls to ensure that girls will have the power to make decisions for themselves and lead their own lives.