President Obama Signs Girls Count Act into Law

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

Washington, D.C. (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, 1 out of 3 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 State Department 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.

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