Plan International USA applauds the introduction of the Keeping Girls in School Act, legislation designed to build on the legacy of Let Girls Learn and continue the momentum of the Global Strategy for Adolescent Girls. The bill, presented today by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), calls for continued U.S. investments in quality and equitable educational opportunities, empowerment, and economic security for adolescent girls around the world.
Keeping Girls in School will draw on the existing Adolescent Girls Education Challenge Fund to support partnership between federal agencies and external partners to implement innovative programs that ensure adolescent girls can go to school and stay in school.
According to UNESCO, more than 130 million girls around the world are out of school today, including 98 million girls who are missing out entirely on secondary school. Adolescent girls are three times more likely than boys to be kept out of school, making them more vulnerable to early and forced marriage and other forms of gender-based violence, and less empowered to contribute to their own health and well-being and that of their families and communities.
Adolescent girls who are not in school are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS; reducing infection rates cannot be done until and unless we tackle issues that keep girls out of school. One of the U.S. government's most successful international development programs, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), recognizes this and works with programs like Let Girls Learn to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries. PEPFAR, started under the leadership of President George W. Bush with continued strong bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress, goes beyond health interventions by addressing the structural causes that increase the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, including lack of education and poverty.
Investments in adolescent girls are investments in security, stability, and economic growth. For every extra year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 10 to 20 percent, thereby contributing to the economic advancement of her community and nation. When girls are educated, communities are better equipped to cope with adversity, withstand crises, and invest in the future. Countries are safer, more prosperous, and more stable when women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys.
The United States has long been a global leader in efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities for those who have been traditionally marginalized and disenfranchised, particularly women and girls.
Plan International USA supports the Keeping Girls in School Act and encourages the U.S. government to further its long-standing commitment to investing in the power and potential of girls by building upon successful programs like PEPFAR and Let Girls Learn. Ratifying the Keeping Girls in School Act will ensure that the United States remains committed to adolescent girls as a critical demographic in the growth of every nation, including the United States.