The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) welcomes the introduction of the Keeping Girls in School Act (KGISA) of 2019 in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill is designed to ensure that U.S. foreign assistance addresses the barriers that keep more than 130 million school-aged girls around the world out of school.
The bill has bipartisan support in both houses of congress. It was introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in the Senate and Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) in the House.
The Keeping Girls in School Act calls on the U.S. government to address barriers to education — barriers such as child marriage or early pregnancy — through smart investments and coordination between U.S. government agencies. The bill is designed to complement existing guidance and legislation on education and child marriage in U.S. foreign policy and programmatic efforts, such as the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.
“Investing in girls’ education is one of the best investments we can make with U.S. foreign assistance,” said Lyric Thompson, ICRW’s director of policy and advocacy. “By investing in education, we invest not just in one girl’s schooling, but in her economic and health outcomes and a healthy transition to adulthood, which will have ripple effects throughout her life and for her family, her community and the world.”
Educating and empowering girls in adolescence is also a critical step towards achieving women’s economic empowerment, a key priority of the U.S. government. Recent efforts such as the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018 and the WGDP Initiative, launched earlier this year, will be reinforced by programs supported by the act that help build the pipeline of a healthy, educated and inclusive workforce.
Research by the International Center for Research on Women and the World Bank showed that every additional year of education beyond primary school that a girl receives reduces the probability of both child marriage and of early childbearing. Eliminating child marriage would save many governments five percent or more of their education budgets by 2030. In fact, if every girl worldwide received 12 years of free, safe, quality education, lifetime earnings for women could increase by $15 trillion to $30 trillion globally.
The Keeping Girls in School Act also encourages innovative approaches to investing in girls’ education, authorizing USAID to utilize Development Impact Bonds. This model provides the seed money that allows NGOs to develop their own innovative program approaches, which, if shown to be successful, can be brought to scale. An example of this type of programming can be seen in India, where the UBS Optimus Foundation partnered with the NGO Educate Girls and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation to improve school enrollment and learning targets for out-of-school girls.
“We know that girls are three times more likely to be kept out of school during adolescence than boys are, and this is exacerbated in times of conflict and crisis,” said Rachel Clement, ICRW policy advocate and co-chairs of Girls Not Brides USA and the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. “The girls of today deserve free and full education, and it is encouraging to see this bipartisan and bicameral effort to address the many barriers girls face to staying in school.”