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Frankel, Brooks, Lowey, and Fitzpatrick Celebrate Passage of Bipartisan Legislation to Keep Girls in School Worldwide

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Washington, January 28, 2020 | comments

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL-21), Susan W. Brooks (R-IN-05), Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) celebrated the passage of the Keeping Girls in School Act, which they introduced last year, to support the educational empowerment of girls globally. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where a companion bill was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Adolescent girls who remain in school are more likely to live longer, marry later, and earn an income to support their families, boosting the economic prosperity of their communities and nations. However, today 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 poor safety traveling to schools.

“When girls are educated and empowered, we uplift communities and families, reduce poverty, and create a safer and more prosperous world,” said Congresswoman Lois Frankel. “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 Congresswoman Susan W. 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.”

“Ensuring girls around the world have equal access to a quality education is one of the best ways to alleviate poverty and promote stability,” said Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. “We need a global strategy to help us create the best environments to allow girls to realize their full potential. The Keeping Girls in School Act would provide critical funding to break down the barriers preventing women and girls from receiving the education they so desperately need and deserve.”

“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 Congressman Brian 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. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to see this bill pass the Senate.”

“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 Senator Shaheen, the only woman serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “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 Senator 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.”

The bill passed the House by voice vote and awaits consideration in the Senate.

BACKGROUND

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 or harmful cultural norms. 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 that 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 five years for at least 10 years.

 

Full text of the legislation can be found here. Additionally, dozens of civil, human, and women’s rights organizations have endorsed the Keeping Girls in School ActList can be found here.

*Statistics are according to UNESCO, the Education Policy and Data Center, CARE, the Global Partnership for Education, and the World Bank.

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