H. R. 3398
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
November 20, 2014
Received; read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
To authorize the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Girls Count Act of 2014.
Congress makes the following findings:
According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2013 international figures, 1 person in 12—or close to 900,000,000 people—is a girl or young woman age 10 through 24.
The data also asserts that young people are the fastest growing segment of the population in developing countries.
Even though most countries do have birth registration laws, nearly one-third of all children under the age of 5 worldwide have never had their births registered. Moreover, an estimated 45 percent of children under the age of 5 worldwide (about 290 million children) do not possess a birth certificate.
A nationally recognized proof of birth is the key to determining a child’s citizenship, nationality, place of birth, parentage and age, without which a passport, drivers license, or national identification card are impossible to obtain. Those who lack such documentation are often prevented from officially participating in and benefitting from the formal economic, legal, and political sectors in their countries.
The lack of birth registration among girls worldwide is particularly concerning as it exacerbates their disproportionate vulnerability to trafficking, child marriage, and lack of access to health and education services.
A lack of birth registration among women and girls can also aggravate what in many places amounts to an already reduced ability to seek employment, participate in civil society or purchase or inherit land and other assets.
Girls undertake much of the domestic labor needed for poor families to survive: carrying water, harvesting crops, tending livestock, caring for younger children, and doing chores.
Accurate assessments of access to education, poverty levels, and overall census activities are hampered by the lack of official information on women and girls. Without this rudimentary information, assessments of foreign assistance and domestic social welfare programs cannot be accurately gauged.
To ensure that women and girls are fully integrated into United States foreign assistance policies and programs, that the specific needs of girls are, to the maximum extent possible, addressed in the design, implementation, and evaluation of development assistance programs, and that women and girls have the power to affect the decisions that affect their lives, all girls should be counted and have access to birth certificates and other official documentation.
Statement of policy
It is the policy of the United States to—
encourage countries to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enact laws that ensure girls and boys of all ages are full participants in society, including requiring birth certifications and some type of national identity card to ensure that all citizens, including girls, are counted;
enhance training and capacity-building to developing countries, local nongovernmental organizations, and other civil society organizations to effectively address the needs of birth registries in countries where girls are undercounted;
include organizations representing children and families in the design, implementation, and monitoring of programs under this Act; and
mainstream into the design, implementation, and evaluation of policies and programs at all levels an understanding of the distinctive impact that such policies and programs may have on girls.
United States assistance to support counting of girls in the developing world
The Secretary and the Administrator are authorized to—
support programs that will contribute to improved and sustainable Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems (CRVS) with a focus on birth registration as the first and most important life event to be registered;
promote programs that build the capacity of developing countries’ national and local legal and policy frameworks to prevent discrimination against girls;
support programs to help increase property rights, social security, and home ownership, land tenure security, and inheritance rights for women; and
assist key ministries in the governments of developing countries, including health, interior, youth, and education ministries, to ensure that girls from poor households obtain equitable access to social programs.
Coordination with multilateral organizations
The Secretary shall coordinate with the World Bank, relevant United Nations agencies and programs, and other relevant organizations to urge and work with countries to enact, implement, and enforce laws that specifically collect data on girls and establish registration and identification laws to ensure girls are active participants in the social, economic, legal and political sectors of society in their countries.
Coordination with private sector and civil society organizations
The Secretary and the Administrator should work with United States, international, and local private sector and civil society organizations to advocate for the registration and documentation of all girls and boys in developing countries to prevent exploitation, violence, and other abuses.
The Secretary and the Administrator shall include in relevant evaluations and reports to Congress the following information:
To the extent practicable, United States foreign assistance and development assistance beneficiaries by age, gender, marital status, location, and school enrollment status.
A description of how United States foreign assistance and development assistance benefits girls.
Specific information on programs that address the particular needs of girls.
In this Act:
Administrator means the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
foreign assistance has the meaning given the term in section 634(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2394(b)).
Secretary means the Secretary of State.
This Act shall expire on the date that is 5 years after the date of the enactment of this Act.
Passed the House of Representatives November 19, 2014.
Karen L. Haas,