Washington, DC (June 15, 2015) — President Obama has signed the Girls Count Act into law. This legislation — passed unanimously by Congress — helps ensure children in developing countries are registered at birth, a key milestone that if missed causes a lifetime of hardship in getting basic services and rights, such as access to education, the right to vote, and getting a job.
“For too long, the critical issue of making sure children — especially girls — are registered at birth has been overlooked. That ends now. For girls worldwide who are not registered, the signing of the Girls Count Act is an opportunity to come out of the shadows and have a brighter future,” said Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “Through the UN Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, thousands of youth urged Congress and the President to make the Girls Count Act law, highlighting the power of girls to drive change around the world.”
While most countries have mechanisms in place for registering births, one out of three children worldwide do not officially exist. According to UNICEF, the organization leading the United Nations’ efforts to support birth registration, the births of nearly 230 million children under the age of five living around the world today have never been counted. Even if officially registered, tens of millions of children do not have a birth certificate to prove it.
When a child is denied a birth certificate, it can prevent him or her from going to school, getting a job, or accessing health and social services. The Girls Count Act gives Executive Branch agencies such as the U.S. Department of State and USAID the authority to provide assistance to support counting of girls in developing countries.
Caryl M. Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, said, “Birth registration is a fundamental right that too many children are denied. The lack of a birth certificate imperils a child’s education, health and future prospects. Children without birth certificates also face a much greater risk of exploitation, abuse and trafficking. I applaud the quick passage of the Girls Count Act and look forward to its implementation.”
“The Girls Count Act will ensure that millions of poor and vulnerable girls around the world do not simply get lost. No birth certificate means no legal identity, no rights, and no protections. Tragically, those who legally do not exist are consequently more easily trafficked. This Act puts in place policies to give girls a better chance to survive and thrive,” said William O’Keefe, vice president, government relations and advocacy for Catholic Relief Services.
“A birth certificate is more than a simple piece of paper, it is foundational to protecting children from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. The Girls Count Act will ensure that all children are counted, especially the most vulnerable,” said Jessica Bousquette, World Vision’s policy advisor for child protection.
“Without an age established by birth certificate, there is no protection against child labor, against being treated as an adult in the justice system, against forcible conscription in armed forces, against child marriage and trafficking,” said Melysa Sperber, director of The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST).
A wide coalition of organizations, grassroots supporters, and elected officials have advocated for the Girls Count Act to become law for more than two years. The Girls Count Act was authored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in the Senate, and Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Steve Chabot (R-OH), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) in the House.
– END –
About The United Nations Foundation:
The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by global corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals. For more information, visit www.UNFoundation.org.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.UNICEFUSA.org.
About Catholic Relief Services:
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States that works to ease suffering by providing assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.CRS.org.
The Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATEST) is a U.S.-based coalition that advocates for solutions to prevent and end all forms of human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. ATEST member organizations include: Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, ECPAT-USA, Free the Slaves, Futures Without Violence, International Justice Mission, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Network for Youth, Polaris, Safe Horizon, Solidarity Center, Verité, Vital Voices Global Partnership, and World Vision. ATEST is a project of Humanity United. For more information, visit www.EndSlaveryandTrafficking.org.
About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization conducting relief, development, and advocacy activities in its work with children, families, and their communities in nearly 100 countries to help them reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/media-center/ or on Twitter @WorldVisionUSA.
- Organizations applaud new law that will help ensure children everywhere are registered at birth and have a chance at a successful future
- Signing of the Girls Count Act major victory for the thousands of grassroots supporters who advocated for the bill