SEATTLE, Washington — Around the world, men are the dominating force in politics and decision making. Within the 21st century, there has been a slight increase in the number of women participating in passing legislation and speaking up in the political world. However, that percentage still rests at only 24.5%. There is a tendency within the political realm to make women invisible or deem them not important compared to their male counterparts. According to Senate Version S.2766, also known as the Girls LEAD Act, despite comprising over 50 percent of the world’s population, women are underrepresented at all levels of public sector decision making. At the current rate of progress, it will take over 100 years to achieve gender equality in political participation. Therefore, the Girls LEAD Act is a necessary step to give women the opportunity to better their nations and their lives.
Girls in Education
Currently, worldwide, there are about 132,000,000 girls between ages 6 and 17 that are not enrolled in school. Girls are three times more likely than boys not to attend school, particularly in countries affected by conflict. When girls reach adolescence, they run a higher risk than boys of dropping out due to forced marriage, pregnancy or family pressure. For each continued year of secondary education, the likelihood of adolescent girls marrying before 18 years old decreases by 5%. Promoting adolescent girls’ and women’s education and pathway to political leadership will decrease child marriages and violence against women. It will also promote the creation and maintenance of democratic societies. Girls and women can have an essential role in ensuring resilient and sustainable communities.
Having more women in educated or political spaces forms a greater sense of democracy and community. There is more cooperation between party and ethnic lines and better responsiveness to community and citizen needs. For example, in fields such as education and healthcare, the involvement of women has decreased corruption, increased stability, and promoted higher living standards. Additionally, women in leadership positions are more likely to resolve national crises without resorting to violence, sustain peace agreements over longer periods of time, advocate for social issues that benefit all, and allocate budgets to health and education.
Girls LEAD Act
The most recent policy statement for the Girls LEAD Act included six parts. The first was that all adolescents, male and female, be allowed to engage in society to exercise their political and civic rights as voices of change. Part two involves increasing the capability of adolescent girls in finding leadership roles and influencing decision-making at different levels (household, community, national). Next, the policy includes insurance that they will consult with the affected children. Therefore, they can make sure the initiatives and projects are effective and people are responsive. They assure the consultations will be transparent, voluntary, inclusive, and safe. Finally, parts five and six work to decrease discrimination and abuse towards girls to create safe spaces for them.
The Bill in Action
Each relevant federal agency will have a strategy to help push this bill forward. The agencies will need to make financial, technical, and in-kind contributions in order to make progress. Since its introduction in 2019, there have been seven senators who cosponsor the Girls LEAD Act. The seven who have cosponsored the act are Sens. Benjamin Cardin, Rob Portman, Christopher Coons, Shelley Moore Capito, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley, and Dan Sullivan along with the Senate sponsor, Sen. Susan Collins. Along with the House of Representatives sponsor, Rep. David Trone, there are 18 House cosponsors. Currently, the House has only introduced the Girls LEAD Act, not passed it. However, the House has only read it twice and did pass it onto the Committee on Foreign Relations.
The final finding Congress listed on the Senate version states they plan on “Empowering adolescent girls and young women in childhood and as they transition to become adults, investing in their leadership potential, and ensuring there are established pathways to positions of political leadership and civic engagement contribute to ensuring a world where women can thrive as political leaders and decision-makers, in economic spaces and across society as a whole”. Even the smallest increase in the number of women in politics is progress. Even if the boards they are on aren’t national or international level, it is still progress. Whether it’s ten women on a school board or one woman on a national-level policy-making committee, it is still progress.