Save the Children and ChildFund Celebrate the Re-Introduction of the Girls LEAD Act

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 10, 2021)—Save the Children and ChildFund celebrate the re-introduction of the bipartisan Girls LEAD Act in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Girls LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development) Act promotes girls’ leadership and participation in civic and political processes through U.S. foreign assistance.

The bill was re-introduced by Sens. Collins (R-ME) and Cardin (D-MD) and Congressman Trone (D-MD) and Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)—all original co-sponsors.

“We know that adolescent girls understand best what they not only need to survive, but to thrive,” Save the Children CEO Janti Soeripto said. “We must listen to and empower girls so they can be a force of change in their own communities. The Girls LEAD Act is an important step in recognizing adolescent girls as agents of change, and ensuring their meaningful engagement in U.S. development programming.”

Too often, girls face systemic barriers to civic and political participation because of their age and gender. At the current rate of progress, it will take over 100 years to achieve gender parity in political participation according to a World Economic Forum report.

“Most of U.S. foreign assistance programming for girls focuses on ensuring their access to health, education and entrepreneurship opportunities but fails to educate them about their roles as citizens with unique strengths and wisdom to shape the systems and policies that affect them,” Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO of ChildFund, said. “Until programs and funding aiming to bolster democracies and civic participation worldwide include girls, they will continue to fall short.”

Prioritizing pathways to leadership for adolescent girls is all the more pressing as the COVID-19 pandemic directly impacts girls’ ability to thrive in and contribute to society. Pandemic-related school closures and economic impacts have pushed nearly 743 million girls out of school and left millions more at increased risk of violence and exploitation.

“Despite comprising more than 50 percent of the world’s population, women are underrepresented at all levels of public sector decision-making,” Senator Collins said. “The Girls LEAD Act would complement Congress’ efforts to combat this issue by specifically addressing the civic involvement and leadership of adolescent girls, an area where there is currently a gap in U.S. foreign assistance programing.”

The bill’s re-introduction is particularly timely—tied to the annual celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8.

“When women are in leadership positions around the world, we are better for it. Over this past year, we have seen the immense contributions of women leaders who have taken swift, decisive action in the face of COVID-19 to protect communities in the face of an unprecedented crisis,” Congressman Trone said. “This bipartisan bill prioritizes investment in girls’ interaction with civic systems at an early age, creating a strong pipeline for girls to become leaders and decision-makers for years to come. I want to thank Representative McMorris Rodgers and Senators Cardin and Collins for partnering in this bipartisan, bicameral effort on International Women’s Day.”

Specifically, the legislation:

●        Supports the capability of adolescent girls to assume leadership roles and influence decision-making in their communities.

●        Ensures an evidence-based and best practices approach to initiatives supporting girls’ civic and political leadership.

●        Encourages the U.S. to meaningfully consult and engage with girls and boys in development initiatives.

●        Identifies specific barriers to girls’ and women’s civic and political engagement.

●        Bolsters the capacity of civil and political institutions to engage with girls as agents of change, and prioritizes local and national girl-led or girl-focused civil society organizations.

“By giving girls more opportunity to impact the decisions that affect their daily lives, communities can become more responsive and inclusive to all their citizens’ needs. Empowering girls will lead to a generation of empowered women who have the tools to make their families and their countries better,” Senator Cardin said. “On this International Women’s Day, I am proud to announce the Girls LEAD Act with my Senate and House colleagues.”

Gender equality and full political participation are key to sustaining healthy democracies and maintaining global stability—where women’s political participation leads to tangible gains such as increased cooperation across party and ethnic lines and more sustainable peace.

“When women engage, democracies are stronger, foreign aid is more effective, and the world is safer. A truly representative government relies on the voices of all its citizens, no matter their background or walk of life,” Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers said. “The bipartisan Girls LEAD Act highlights the importance of engaging girls in civics and public service. This will help build a stronger pipeline for young women to run for political office and encourage them to seek leadership positions in the private sector. With more women empowered, it will support a new generation of transformational leaders in democracies around the world.”

The act will authorize reforms across USAID and the Department of State to ensure girls are supported to meaningfully engage in civic and political forums and processes in their communities and countries. It would require a coordinated strategy and implementation plan for increasing girls’ civic participation from the two agencies and mandate a publicly available annual report on progress made by those U.S. government agencies in implementing this strategy.

Save the Children and ChildFund celebrate support for the Girls LEAD Act from Church World Service, Futures Without Violence, Global Campaign for Education-US, The Hunger Project, International Action Network for Gender Equity and Law (IANGEL), Kakenya’s Dream and the National Association of Social Workers.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.

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