U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) acted in support of H.R. 3398, the Girls Count Act of 2014, a bill that authorizes the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide assistance to improve birth registration programs worldwide.
Lack of documentation can make it more difficult, or even impossible, for a girl to receive an education, get a job or access social services.
“Those opportunities that only come with documentation – like receiving health care, attending school, voting, or earning her driver’s license – should be available to girls worldwide,” said Denham.
Globally, there are nearly 230 million children under the age of five with no birth certificate, and their births have never been registered. On average, the number increases by 51 million yearly; a disproportionate percentage of these children are girls.
The programs would serve to prevent discrimination against girls and women, and work with developing countries to help ensure equitable treatment.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Department of State and USAID would be required to coordinate with international organizations, civil society organizations, and the private sector to meet goals.
The bill would require the agencies to include, in evaluations and reports to the Congress, data about the beneficiaries, descriptions of how assistance programs benefit girls, and specific information about programs that target girls in detail.
The two report that the ongoing assistance programs meet the requirements of the bill and therefore, the CBO expects that no further assistance would be provided under the bill.
It is estimated by the CBO that implementing reporting requirements would cost less than $500,000 each year, totaling at $1 million during the 2015-2019 period, assuming the appropriated funds are available.
H.R. 3398 does not contain intergovernmental or private-sector mandates, therefore it would not affect budgets of state, local, or tribal governments.
According to Denham, without a birth certificate, girls especially in developing nations begin life at a disadvantage.
“As a father, I want my own daughter to be able to have every opportunity in the world to succeed,” said Denham concerning the necessity of the Act.
“Our young women face terrible barriers to achievement, too often becoming victims of human trafficking, domestic slavery or forced child labor. The least we can do is give them a legal voice through registration at birth.”
Click here for a full text of the bill.
Click here for the Congressional Budget Office’s full report.