SHAHEEN, RUBIO WELCOME HOUSE PASSAGE OF GIRLS COUNT ACT, CALL FOR PRESIDENT’S SIGNATURE

June 02, 2015

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senators  Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) welcome last night’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the “Girls Count Act,” a bill they introduced earlier this year directing 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. Having passed in the Senate last week, the bill now awaits the President’s signature to become law.

 “All women deserve the basic dignity and protection that comes from being registered at birth,” said Shaheen. “As this legislation heads to the President’s desk for signature, 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.”

“Passage of the Girls Count Act in the House brings us one step closer to solving the massive problem regarding children for whom no official records exist because they were not registered at birth,” said Rubio. “I hope President Obama will sign the bill swiftly and solidify our country’s commitment to helping all kids get registered so we can make sure every child worldwide is counted and able to fully participate in and contribute to their societies.”

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” would:

  • 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.

Organizations that support the Girls Count Act include: U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking and Girl Up Campaign.