Plan International USA statement on U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality

October 22, 2021

Plan International USA applauds today’s release of the first-ever US National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality by the White House. On International Women’s Day this year, President Biden issued an Executive Order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council and directing the Council to develop a domestic and global vision for action with input from the U.S. government and civil society. Plan has been honored to take part in those consultations and is pleased that so much of the global girls’ rights agenda is reflected in the strategy’s priorities.

The policy recognizes that 132 million girls are out of school globally and that child, early and forced marriage, as well as concerns about safety, harassment and abuse, period poverty, and unintended pregnancy undermine access to education. It notes that the “COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these gaps, disrupting schooling for an entire generation of girls, who are more likely than boys to have been forced out of school, lacked access to remote learning options, and taken on caregiving responsibilities.” Then, it pledges to support global initiatives to incentivize girls’ access to learning, as well as to reduce child marriage, school-related gender-based violence and the additional barriers that COVID-19 has raised to girls’ education. These actions resonate with Plan-Citibank research that found if all girls graduated from secondary school, the GDP of a number of developing countries would rise by more than 10%.

In addition, the strategy emphasizes the need for protection of women and girls in emergencies, promising to leverage the U.S. “role as the largest bilateral humanitarian donor to help ensure progress and accountability on these issues across the humanitarian system.” This is supported by Plan’s work through the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action.

In line with Plan’s 2020 and 2021 State of the World’s Girls reports that include nationally-representative surveys with girls and young women about online harassment and abuse, the strategy moves ahead with the Administration’s campaign pledge to convene a U.S. government task force. The task force will seek input from civil society to produce recommendations to address online gender-based violence in the U.S. and globally. “These efforts will include a focus on addressing cyber stalking, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, and the use of the internet as a tool of abuse to intimidate and silence.” Plan also applauds the decision to update the 2016 U.S. Strategy to Prevent Gender-Based Violence Globally and the recognition that gender-based violence is a key driver of forced migration from Central America and elsewhere.

Plan looks forward to further engagement with the White House Gender Policy Council, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and our partners in civil society as the strategy is implemented.