Being Counted

Approximately one person in 12 around the world is a girl or young woman aged 10–24. Girls and young women are one of the fastest growing segments of the population in developing countries, and their health and welfare is fundamental to creating and maintaining strong economies and healthy communities. And yet, accurate assessments of access to education, poverty levels and overall census activities, are hampered by the lack of official data on women and girls. Without this basic information, it is difficult to assess the need for foreign assistance and domestic social welfare programs.

Most developing countries do not account for the number of girls in their population due to a lack of political will or the ability to count these girls – to issue birth certificates and other forms of official identification. This means that as a girl grows up it will be difficult, if not impossible, for her to attend school or get a job. She will not be able to own her own land or start her own business. She will not be able to vote. She will likely be confined to her home and left unpaid – an invisible member of society.

By the numbers

  • Even though most countries do have birth registration laws, every year 51 million children, under the age of five, are not registered at birth.
  • Birth registrations are crucial for people and societies; people benefit from the legal status of certification and societies benefit from the availability of quality statistics on vital life events.
  • A nationally recognized proof of birth is the key to determining a child’s nationality, place of birth, parentage and age – without which a passport or national ID card are impossible to obtain.

What you can do

Not counting girls also means that the commitment of the U.S. government to prioritize women and girls in U.S. foreign policy is not being fully realized. In 2013, Girl Up launched an effort to educate policymakers on the importance of counting girls and advocate for policies that:

  • Ensure girls are counted. The U.S. should commit to supporting and promoting programs that help developing countries establish and expand their national registration and identification systems, including birth certificates and national identity cards. Doing so will make girls more visible to policymakers and reveal where girls are excluded.
  • Ensure investments in girl programs. The U.S. should support strategic investments in programs that focus on adolescent girls as contributors to successful societies.
  • Ensure girls are given equal access. The U.S. should encourage ending discrimination against girls and increasing property rights to ensure that adolescent girls benefit equitably from basic rights such as access to education.

There’s a solution to make sure more girls around the world – regardless of where they’re born – are counted just like everyone else: the Girls Count Act.

Support the Girls Count Act