Every human life counts. Thanks to the persistence of the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, President Obama signed the Girls Count Act into law last month. Congress unanimously passed the legislation, which will help ensure children in developing countries are registered at birth. 4 out of 10 children are not registered at birth, making this law especially critical.
Being registered at birth is indeed essential. Children who are not registered struggle to obtain basic rights and services, such as the right to vote, to receive an education, and to get a job.
To initiate change, The Girls Count Act will give agencies including the USAID and the State Department the authority to provide assistance for the counting and registration of girls in developing countries.
According to UNICEF, the births of almost 230 million children under the age of five living worldwide today have never been counted. Even if officially registered, tens of millions of children lack birth certificates as proof of registration, preventing them from receiving many social services as well as basic rights. No birth certificate means no recognized identity. With the passing of the Girls Count Act, Girl Up has lead to the safeguarding of the identities of girls all over the world.
From its founding in 2010, Girl Up has worked to support the empowerment of girls everywhere and has produced tremendous results. The foundation has raised $5.6 million for UN programs that help girls in developing countries have the opportunity to go to school, see a doctor and stay safe from violence. In addition to fundraising, Girl Up has lobbied members of Congress to stop child marriage and, as aforementioned, to ensure that girls are registered at birth.
Girl Up has made significant progress regarding child marriage. Supporters took 17,000 online actions and held dozens of meetings with members of Congress. In 2013, the U.S. Congress enacted foreign policy to help prevent early and forced marriage as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Since 2010, Girl Up has raised $5,600,000 for programs working to improve the lives of adolescent girls in countries such as Guatemala, Liberia, Malawi, Ethiopia and India. The organization works to make sure that girls are safe, have access to education and healthcare, have leadership opportunities, and are counted by their governments.
Girl Up’s funding has resulted in key policy changes in Liberia and Malawi, promoting recognition of the rights of girls. In February 2015, Malawi passed a law raising the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18 years old.
In 2010, the Children’s Law of Liberia passed, securing children’s rights, protecting girls from child marriage, and supporting victims domestic abuse. Girl Up is now working to support its implementation.
Girl Up’s reach extends through hundreds of clubs and universities. Undeniably, its supporters are helping to provide a brighter future for girls around the world.
For more information, visit https://girlup.org/