For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United States Agency for International Agency (USAID) recognized the first-ever International Day of the Girl Child through the announcement of several new initiatives to prevent child marriage and promote girls’ education worldwide.
Last December, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare October 11th as the International Day of the Girl Child. The day was established to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
USAID released “Ending Child Marriage and Serving the Needs of Married Youth: The USAID Vision," which focuses on development efforts to combat child marriage in regions, countries, and communities where interventions to prevent and respond to child marriage are most needed and most able to achieve results. 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.
USAID and the American University’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program co-hosted a panel discussion in honor of the inaugural International Day of the Girl and the release of the USAID Vision document. Ambassador Donald Steinberg, Deputy Administrator for USAID, delivered opening remarks and participated in the panel.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convened a meeting with leaders in government and the private sector, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to discuss their shared commitment to improving the lives of girls around the world. Following the meeting, Secretary Clinton announced new U.S. Government and private sector initiatives to prevent child marriage and promote girls’ education around the world.
Those initiatives included a USAID pilot program with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to test approaches to address the issue of child marriage - including those based on health care, education, and legal rights. This program will enlist religious authorities, media, local governments and NGOs, to promote community sensitization to this critical issue.
Additionally, USAID and the Presidents’ 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. Only 11 percent of Congolese women over age 25 have secondary educations. With an emphasis on leadership training the Empowering Adolescent Girls to Lead through Education (EAGLE) program will seek to raise this rate by tackling many of the barriers keeping girls from continuing their post-primary educations – including cost and school safety.
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.
Last updated: October 29, 2014