U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., scored a win this week as the U.S. House passed her “Keeping Girls in School Act” which, supporters say, will “support the economic and educational empowerment of girls globally.”
First introduced in 2018 by Frankel and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., the congresswomen brought the proposal back this year and reeled in more than 110 cosponsors.
“Today, over 130 million girls worldwide are not in school,” Frankel’s office noted. “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 because every child deserves an equal opportunity to access quality education. This legislation brings attention to the systemic barriers preventing girls from accessing secondary education; barriers such as child marriage, religious or ethnic discrimination, female genital mutilation and poor safety traveling to schools.”
The bill looks to keep girls around the world in secondary schools listing 14 barriers they currently face, “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” and relying on public-private partnership and development impact funds to “leverage real results with measurable outcomes.” The bill also requires that the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls be reviewed and updated every five years.
“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,” insisted Frankel’s office “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.”
“When girls are educated and empowered, we uplift communities and families, reduce poverty, and create a safer and more prosperous world,” said Frankel after the House passed her bill on Tuesday.. “Today’s bill passage is a big step towards helping girls around the world overcome the obstacles keeping them out of school, like child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence.”
“We know that education is key to helping girls and women around the world achieve parity and equality of opportunity as well as live long, healthier lives,” said Brooks. “Unfortunately, over 130 million girls and women worldwide face significant obstacles in accessing and remaining in secondary education. Whether that obstacle be safely traveling to school, forced child marriage, or access to nutrition, the Keeping Girls in School Act works to support the economic and educational empowerment of girls globally by targeting these and other barriers. I am encouraged by the House passing this critically important legislation, and I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to get this passed into law.”
The bill now heads to the U.S. Senate where U.S. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have championed the proposal.
“This bipartisan legislation is a necessary instrument for development and it sends a powerful message that educating women and girls around the world must be a U.S. foreign policy priority. I’m very encouraged to see our legislation clear the House of Representatives and I urge Senator McConnell to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote,” said Shaheen. “Closing the education gap that exists between boys and girls and breaking down the societal barriers that prevent girls from accessing an education are crucial to strengthening communities and enabling development. Empowering girls with an education is an investment in their lives today and the generation of girls who will follow tomorrow. I’m proud to stand arm in arm with Senator Murkowski and Congresswoman Frankel to drive this bill forward.”
“Education is a key factor of the overall health and success of individuals and societies at large. Despite this being widely recognized, there is still a staggering number of girls who are being denied the opportunity to simply go to school. Unsafe environments, forced marriages, poor socioeconomic status, violence, and harassment are among the numerous obstacles that many women across the globe face in pursuit of an education. And it is entirely unacceptable,” said Murkowski. “Since our initial introduction last spring, Senator Shaheen and I have worked hard with stakeholders, Senate colleagues, and members in the House of Representatives to improve our legislation to craft a final product that will help empower the nearly 130 million girls that are not regularly enrolled in school around the world.”
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