The Girls Count Act of 2013
Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation campaign that works to support girls in the developing world in a holistic way. Girls deserve the opportunity of getting an education, but a solution isn’t as simple as just building a school. Girls need to be safe walking to and from school; healthy so they are not missing school due to illness; and they need to have legislation in place that works to secure their protection. Girl Up looks at all of these issues and their goal is to make sure that girls are safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of future leaders. Girl Up works as a grassroots movement. In schools, college campuses, and community centers; clubs work to raise funds and awareness for Girl Up’s mission.
This year, one of Girl Up’s main campaigns is to ensure that girls in the developing world get birth certificates. A birth certificate is legal documentation that proves a person’s citizenship, where and when they were born, and their nationality. It also serves as an official form of identification. Fifty-one million children are not registered at birth, a majority of whom are girls. Without a birth certificate, girls do not exist in the eyes of the law, hence preventing them from benefitting from society in both economic and social aspects. If they are victims of abuse or human trafficking, it is difficult to bring them justice because they are invisible to society. Without a birth certificate, girls face a higher risk of forced labor and child marriage. In addition to that, they cannot vote, start their own businesses, get a drivers license, become employed, or own property when they are older. A birth certificate is the first step in guaranteeing the rights girls have as citizens.
The Girls Count Act of 2013 was introduced in Congress by the House of Representatives to authorize the Secretary of State, and the Administrator of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support programs that will benefit in improving civil registration and vital statistics system while concentrating on birth registration and promotion of programs that prevent discrimination against girls, and promote women’s inheritance rights in developing countries (US Congress). Furthermore, the bill also makes sure that women and girls are in contact with foreign assistance policies and programs that focuses on their needs. It should be in the best interest of these women to have the power to speak up about problems that affect their lives and have their needs addressed in the formation of the development assistance programs.
The Girls Count Act of 2013 would “encourage countries to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” There are many human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that are not protected when a child does not have a birth certificate. Among the rights that are listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, some of the rights include: the right to property, right to education, right to freedom where no one should be held in slavery or servitude, and the right to enter marriage with free will and consent (United Nations). When girls don’t have birth certificates, it is easier for their human rights to be violated. Ensuring birth certificates for girls helps in protecting their human rights.
Members of Girl Up have been working to support the Girls Count Act in many ways. They have been writing letters, sending emails, calling offices, and scheduling meetings. Last June, Girl Up supporters from all around the country gathered together in Washington, D.C. for a Girl Up Leadership Summit, where they gained valuable leadership experience, and learned more about Girl Up. They marched up to the Capitol Hill where they had a Lobby Day, and meetings with Representatives, Senators, and staff. Girl Up supporters have also scheduled many meetings in their own states to encourage their Congressmen and women to become co-sponsors of the Girls Count Act.
Last Monday, members of the Girl Up Greater Boston Coalition – made up of Girl Up clubs in the Greater Boston area – met with the Regional Director from Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office to discuss why they support the Girls Count Act. At the meeting, they were able to explain the benefits of the Girls Count Act of 2013 and why Senator Warren should become a co-sponsor. They have a meeting scheduled next Monday with a staff member from Senator Edward Markey’s office. The purpose of the meeting is to ask Senator Markey to become a supporter and co-sponsor of the Girls Count Act. If you support the Girls Count Act, you can send an email to your Representatives and Senators in Congress, call their office, or even schedule a meeting yourself!
Girl Up is working to ensure that girls are safe, healthy, educated, counted, and positioned to be the next generation of leaders. Through advocating for the Girls Count Act of 2013, Girl Up supporters are making progress towards protecting the rights of girls and women in the developing world. Fifty-one million children are not registered at birth, a majority of whom are girls. Numbers count. So should girls.