On the eve of the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child, Secretary Clinton today convened a meeting with leaders in government and the private sector, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, to discuss their shared commitment to improving the lives of girls worldwide. Following the meeting, the Secretary announced new U.S. Government and private initiatives to prevent child marriage and promote girls’ education around the world.
Child Marriage. Every year, 10 million girls, most living in poor and rural communities, will be married before their 18th birthdays. Early and forced marriage robs girls of opportunities to build better lives through education and skilled work, threatens their health and traps them into lives of poverty. The Secretary announced the following to address this threat to girls and global development:
• Mandatory Reporting in Human Rights Reports. Beginning with the 2012 reports, the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practice will track every country’s legal minimum age of marriage and the rate of marriage for girls and boys under age 18. Through these reports, submitted every year to the U.S. Congress, the State Department evaluates all United Nations member states’ adherence to internationally-recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights. By strengthening reporting on this issue, the United States signals to countries that child marriage is a threat to the fundamental human rights of girls and women.
• Strengthening U.S. Capacity to Assist Citizens Threatened with Child Marriage. The State Department will provide more robust guidance and training for all consular staff in U.S. embassies so that they can be better equipped to respond to cases where U.S. citizens may be forced into child marriage abroad.
• Tackling Child Marriage in Bangladesh. Working with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will support a pilot program to test approaches to address the issue of child marriage – including those based on health care, education, and legal rights. The program will also enlist religious authorities, media, local governments and NGOs, to promote community sensitization to the issue.
• Campaign to End Child Marriage in a Generation. The Ford Foundation will launch a 5-year $25 million commitment to work with NGOs, governments, local communities and other funders to build the political will necessary to end child marriage, to support new research to determine successful interventions, and to expand girls’ access to resources and rights, including the right not to marry early. Ford will focus its work in Southern and West Africa, Central America and India and Egypt.
Girls Education. Studies show that education can delay and even prevent child marriage. Girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children when compared to girls who have little or no education. Educated girls are not only less likely to marry young, they are more likely to earn better incomes, and have fewer and healthier children. The Secretary announced the following new initiatives to ensure more girls can successfully complete secondary school:
• Empowering Adolescent Girls to Lead through Education (EAGLE). The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) are working together to ensure thousands of adolescent girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) make successful transitions to secondary school. Just 11 percent of Congolese women over age 25 have secondary educations, and studies show that keeping girls in school dramatically reduces their vulnerability to HIV and improves overall health outcomes. A five-year $15 million initiative, EAGLE seeks to raise this rate by tackling many of the barriers keeping girls from continuing their post-primary educations – including cost and school safety. The program will emphasize leadership training for girls.
• U.S. Exchanges to Improve Teacher Training and Girls’ Education. Beginning in 2013, the Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will develop and provide all teachers who come to the U.S. under the auspices of Department-sponsored Teaching Excellence and Achievement and International Leaders in Education exchange programs courses to strengthen their abilities to recognize and address the unique challenges girls face in the classroom. About 220 teachers per year come to the U.S. through these programs, most from the developing world, where a lack of such training and awareness is considered a serious barrier to girls’ success in school. In 2014, ECA will also invite 20 educators from around the world to come to the U.S. to research and find ways to improve girls’ education in their home countries.
• Peace Corps to Require Gender Training for Education Volunteers. Beginning this fall, all Peace Corps education volunteers will receive specific training in gender in the classroom. This policy will help ensure that every one of the 3,000 Peace Corps volunteers sent to teach in underprivileged schools around the world are well-equipped help their female students overcome barriers to their education.
• The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. As part of a $500 million commitment to education, The MasterCard Foundation has committed $39 million over the next ten years to provide comprehensive support for secondary education, including peer support and mentorship, to talented yet economically disadvantaged girls in Ghana and Uganda.
• MacArthur Foundation Girls Secondary Education in Developing Countries Strategy. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has committed $10 million over the next five years to efforts to improve participation by marginalized girls in quality, relevant secondary education.
• Joint Initiative on Girls’ Secondary Education. The MacArthur Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, the Douglas B. Marshall Jr. Family Foundation and two anonymous donors will collaborate to award more than $6 million over the next year to support innovative secondary education initiatives that provide learning opportunities and life and livelihood skills for underserved youth in East Africa, Nigeria, and India, with a special focus on girls. MacArthur and The MasterCard Foundation announced today that they, together with partners, would renew their commitment in 2013, with an even higher funding target.