Celebrating the power of youth: U.S. passes bill for girls by girls

Article Date

12 August 2015

Article Author

Jessica Bishai

Media Contact

Anne McPherson

Vice President, Global Communications email [email protected]

Teenagers are not often the first group that comes to mind when people think of political powerhouses, but when they put their minds to a task, you definitely don’t want to get in their way.

Girl in Banglasdesh

David Snyder

Take the Girls Count Law, which was recently signed into law by President Obama. Thanks to the combined efforts of thousands of Girl Up supporters and advocates across the United States, millions of girls worldwide will finally be recognized as citizens in their community.

The Girls Count Act, in short, urges countries to follow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and provides training to local NGOs and countries, to ensure that more children – especially girls – are registered at birth. The Act also gives executive branch departments the power to support and promote programs that advocate on behalf women and girls.

Birth registration may not seem like a pressing issue at first, but its importance is huge. According to UNICEF, 230 million children under the age of five have not been registered. That’s nearly one in every three children worldwide. When they aren’t registered, they can’t be guaranteed their rights and can’t receive proper support; they have limited access to education, health care, and social security. When children are not registered, they essentially do not exist in the eyes of their government.

Girls in EgyptThe Girls Count Act is unique in that high school and college students were the primary driving forces behind its passage. Adolescent girls across the United States advocated tirelessly for the passage of the bill, supported by Girl Up, a campaign of the UN Foundation that advocates on behalf of adolescent girls in developing countries. Girl Up was a key sponsor of the bill.

Girl Up advocates like me have spent the past three years calling Congress members, writing letters, engaging in in-district meetings, and even lobbying on Capitol Hill to amass cosponsors. We turned our passion for social media into a tool for social activism – tweeting at our Senators to support the “#GirlsCount Act.”

On June 1, I joined fellow activists in shedding tears of joy when we tuned into C-SPAN and watched the Girls Count Act pass unanimously in the House of Representatives. We live-tweeted the words of Representatives Betty McCollum and Steve Chabot as they spoke in support of the Girls Count Act and about its importance to the lives of millions of girls around the world.

DSC_0424On June 15, as President Obama signed into law the Girls Count Act, we knew that all of our efforts had paid off and that we had made a difference.

Watching the reactions of my peers reminded me that, contrary to what some people believe, today’s young people don’t spend all their relaxing or on social media. In fact, if they are on social media, it’s often to help spur social good, like our advocacy on behalf of Girls Count. . Young people today act on our beliefs and above all, we care about important issues worldwide, like girls who aren’t able to live up to their full potentials because they don’t have access to the support and resources that can help them thrive.

So next time you think of “political powerhouses” remember the thousands of girls worldwide – girls like me – who banded together to create a new future for girls around the world. If that doesn’t show true powerhouse capabilities, I’m not quite sure what does.