Progress on the Keeping Girls in School Act

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — On January 28, 2020, the House passed H.R. 2153: Keeping Girls in School Act. H.R. 2153 promotes empowerment, security and educational opportunities of girls around the world. The bill has widespread, bipartisan support. It will now go to the Senate for consideration.

Girls’ Education Around the World

Despite significant progress in recent decades, girls are still facing educational barriers around the world. In many countries, girls are vulnerable to forced or early marriages, HIV/AIDs and sexual violence. More than 1,000 teenage girls contract HIV every day, making them sub-Saharan Africa’s fasting-growing newly-infected group. At least, 12 million girls every year get married before they turn 18, and “650 million women alive today were married as children.” One of the many problems with the prevalence of child marriage is that it interrupts girls’ schooling, which limits their future opportunities.

According to UNICEF, “130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are out of school” around the world even though keeping girls in school has a positive impact on their health, security, economic status and well-being. Giving girls access to education not only improves and enriches their lives but it also benefits their communities and the entire world. Educated women earn more money

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) supports the Keeping Girls in School Act as it ensures that U.S. foreign aid is directed at addressing the barriers that prevent girls from getting a good education. The ICRW says this goal is one of the best investments the U.S. can make. The quality of girls’ education has ripple effects for the girls themselves, their families and their communities. Furthermore, girls simply “deserve free and full education.”

The Keeping Girls in School Act

The purpose of the Keeping Girls in School Act is to support the empowerment, economic security and educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world. The Act seeks to improve teenage girls’ access to quality secondary education by giving USAID the authority to make “acquisition, assistance, or financing agreements to address societal, cultural, health and other barriers that adolescent girls face.”

If the bill becomes law, USAID would be involved in monitoring and evaluating its outcomes. It would collect data and ensure the adherence to policies for activities that promote gender equality. The State Department would update Congress on its global strategy to empower adolescent girls. The Keeping Girls in School Act would effectively enable the U.S. government and its agencies to coordinate and invest in girls’ education.

The act builds on and strengthening existing U.S. policies enacted in 2016 on education and child marriage and “codif[ies]the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.” This strategy calls on various U.S. government agencies and programs to collaborate on the many challenges that have kept girls away from “an inclusive and equitable quality education.” According to the bill, the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls is the first foreign policy document worldwide devoted exclusively to “the rights and empowerment of girls globally.”

Status of the Resolution

Rep. Lois Frankel [D-FL-21] introduced H.R. 2153: Keeping Girls in School Act on April 9, 2019, after which the bill went to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Fortunately, the bill has widespread, bipartisan support with 116 cosponsors. Democrats comprise 87 of its supporters, and 29 are Republican. After 40 minutes of debate, the House passed the bill on January 28, 2020.

An identical Senate version of the House bill, S. 1071, is currently being considered in the Senate. Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced the Act on April 9 of last year. It subsequently went to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. The Senate bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. However, it currently has only a 4 percent chance of being enacted according to Skopos Labs.

Through the Keeping Girls in School Act, the U.S. aims to increase educational opportunities for adolescent girls around the world. If it passes the Senate, the bill will go to the president to sign or veto.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

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