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Girls Count Act Would Improve Birth Registration Systems Worldwide

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) welcome today’s signing of the “Girls Count Act” into law. The bill, which they introduced earlier this year, will direct current U.S. foreign assistance programming to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries by working to establish birth registries in their countries.

“All women deserve the basic dignity and protection that comes from being registered at birth,” Shaheen said. “Now that this bill has become law, I’m proud that the United States government will be taking additional steps to improve weak birth registration systems around the world that leave young girls vulnerable to exploitation and deny them full citizenship.”

“By having the President sign the Girls Count Act today, the U.S. is solidifying our commitment to helping all kids around the world to get registered at birth so they are counted and able to fully participate in and contribute to their societies,” said Rubio. “Now the important work of implementing this law can begin, and I will be monitoring the administration’s progress in helping children with no birth certificates attain those critical documents.

“Failing to register children at birth leaves them vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation, yet millions of children around the world continue to be denied this basic human right,” added Rubio. “The Girls Count Act will help pave the way for women especially to benefit from new opportunities previously denied to them, and is a strong step forward in the fight against human trafficking and forced labor.”

Every year, approximately 51 million children under the age of five are not registered at birth, most of whom are girls. Proof of birth determines a child’s citizenship, nationality, place of birth, parentage and age, which are critical to ensuring children remain a part of society and do not fall victim to dangers such as exploitation.

The “Girls Count Act” will:

  • Ensure that U.S. foreign assistance programming encourages countries to uphold the rule of law and enact laws that ensure boys and girls of all ages are able to fully participate in society, including by providing birth certifications and other official documentation;
  • Work to enhance training and capacity-building to developing countries, local NGOs and other civil society organizations, including faith-based organizations and organizations representing children and families in the design, to effectively address the needs of birth registries in countries where girls are systematically undercounted; and
  • Require that the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator include in all relevant reports and documents a breakdown of the United State foreign assistance beneficiaries to the extent practicable by age, gender, marital status, location, school enrollment status in all programs and sectors, and how foreign assistance benefits girls.