Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Susan W. Brooks (IN-05), and Nita Lowey (NY-17) reintroduced the Keeping Girls in School Act to support the educational empowerment of girls globally. A companion bill is being introduced by Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
Adolescent girls who remain in school are more likely to support the economic prosperity of their communities and nations. Unfortunately, over 130 million girls worldwide are not in school. While the U.S. has been the global leader in efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities, particularly for girls, there is still more work to be done to ensure access to quality education and expand girls’ economic futures. This bipartisan legislation brings attention to the systemic barriers preventing girls from accessing secondary education, such as child marriage, religious or ethnic discrimination, female genital mutilation, and unsafe access to schools.
“We must work to ensure girls in every country are able to stay in school so we can empower them in order to reduce poverty and create safer, healthier communities,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “The Keeping Girls in School Act will help reduce barriers girls around the world face when trying to remain in school and help them access more opportunities.”
“When girls are educated and empowered, we uplift communities and families, reduce poverty, and create a more peaceful and prosperous world,” said Rep. Frankel. “This bill helps girls succeed by tackling obstacles keeping them out of school, like gender-based violence and child marriage.”
The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on closing the gender gap for adolescent girls and keeping them in school at the secondary level, a time when girls are most at risk of dropping out of school due to forced marriage, pregnancy, and other family pressures. The economic benefits of girls’ education are substantial and can help lift households, communities and nations out of poverty. Keeping girls in secondary school could*:
- Add $92 billion to the economies of low and middle-income nations;
- Cut child deaths by 50 percent;
- Reduce child marriage by 66 percent;
- Decrease violent conflict by 37 percent; and
- Increase girls’ future wages by up to 20 percent for every year enrolled.
Specifically, the Keeping Girls in School Act:
- Outlines and highlights a non-exhaustive list of 14 barriers that girls face in entering and remaining in secondary education institutions.
- Authorizes a budget neutral funding mechanism where USAID is directed to enter into results-based financing and/or traditional grant project proposals to reduce these barriers adolescent girls face. These proposals will utilize public-private partnerships, development impact bonds, and other innovative financing mechanisms to leverage real results with measurable outcomes.
- Requires that the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls be reviewed and updated every 5 years.
What They’re Saying:
“When girls stay in school their communities are healthier, safer, and more prosperous. In order to cultivate a thriving future for our world, girls’ education and development must be a top priority,” said Rep. Brooks. “When we stand up for women and girls, we help empower them to raise their voices, grasp opportunities and reach new heights. I am proud the Keeping Girls in School Act works to support the economic and educational empowerment of girls around the world while breaking down the barriers that keep girls out of the classroom.”
“Educating young women and girls is one of the best ways to help alleviate poverty and promote stability around the world,” said Rep. Lowey, Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “When girls have a seat in a classroom, they are not only set up for better economic opportunities, but their voices are elevated and their global contributions multiplied.”
“Breaking down barriers that prevent girls around the world from accessing quality education is both a moral obligation and an important U.S. foreign policy priority. When girls are educated and empowered, we see the ripple effect in the development of their communities and success of their economies,” said Senator Shaheen. “In addition to addressing the education gap between boys and girls, the Keeping Girls in School Act would require a global strategy to educate and protect adolescent girls around the world. Ensuring young women’s access to education also means confronting the serious societal and health issues they face, including forced marriage, genital mutilation and other forms of violence. The bipartisan support for this bill shows that Congress sees this as a critical U.S. policy priority and I hope we are able to act on this bill quickly.”
“Education is a key factor of the overall health and success of both individuals and the general public, yet the number of women around the world that are not in school is staggering. Unsafe environments, forced marriages, violence and harassment, and poor socioeconomic status are among the many tragic obstacles that many women across the globe face in pursuit of an education. We should not accept this,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to help lead legislation that will help close educational gaps for both young girls in primary school and for young women pursuing a secondary education. Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to achieve an education will help drive economic development and create stronger, more self-reliant female leaders. It’s our duty to girls across America, to women around the globe, and to societies at large to make the chance to go to school a reality.”
“If you limit a girl's access to education, you limit her in every area of her life,” said Jaha Dukureh, founder of Safe Hands for Girls and Africa's Regional Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women. “We have a collective responsibility to break down every barrier girls face, so that they can enjoy their right to an education and realize their full potential.”
"I'm proud to support the The Keeping Girls in School Act and thank the co-sponsors for introducing this bill today," said Rachel Brosnahan, Actor and Global Citizen Ambassador. "I believe immensely in the power of education to change the world- especially for girls and all children affected by crisis, and I’m working with Global Citizen to ask our leaders to increase support and funding for education this year. This bill is a perfect response with commitment for additional US support to programs, policies and resources that make sure adolescent girls don’t just have access to but stay in school. I look forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress and USAID to help overcome barriers for every person to get a quality education and I encourage all members to support the passage of this bill."
*Statistics are according to UNESCO, the Education Policy and Data Center, CARE, the Global Partnership for Education, and the World Bank.