Statement from Girl Up Director Melissa Kilby on Elimination of U.S. Funds for UNFPA

Child Marriage , Health

I was deeply saddened by the announcement that the U.S. Government is eliminating U.S. funds for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  UNFPA has been one of Girl Up’s key implementing partners since our founding. We work closely with UNFPA in four of our six impact countries to make sure that the hardest to reach girls have a chance to be educated, healthy, and safe.

Today, United Nations Foundation CEO Kathy Calvin put out a statement strongly condemning the U.S. cutting its vital support to UNFPA, adding:

Investing in the health and rights of girls and women – and empowering them to plan their families and their futures – is a strategic investment yielding direct returns to the U.S. This investment sparks a ripple effect, generating not only strong, healthy and empowered girls and women, but more stable and prosperous families, communities and countries.

UNFPA is working in 150 countries around the world, and the Girl Up team saw first-hand how the agency is helping girls take control of their lives on our recent learning trip to Guatemala visiting our Girl Up-supported UNFPA program which works to prevent child marriage and give girls a chance to continue their education and choose their own futures.

We met Ursula, 12, in Los Llano de Los Tuices, Guatemala. She is part of UNFPA’s joint safe space program which is changing norms around child marriage in her community. Instead of getting married at 12 or 13 years old, Ursula told us “I have my graduation still. And only after I’ve graduated will I think about whether or not I want to get married. This is what I think. It’s my decision. I will graduate at 16 and I want to continue with secondary school.”

UNFPA is also our implementing partner for our SchoolCycle program which we launched in Malawi and brought to Guatemala. Norma, 14, received a bike in February through SchoolCycle in Chisec, Guatemala. Without a bike, she wouldn’t have been able to go to school. But with her new bike, she can quickly and safely get to school. She loves math and wants to be a teacher so she can earn an income and choose when to have a family. She is the oldest of four children and hopes that her younger siblings will follow in her footsteps and go to secondary school as well.

Knowing how UNFPA is changing girls’ lives around the world, we are even more concerned by the decision to eliminate U.S. funding to UNFPA. We echo the United Nations Foundation’s request that the U.S. government “stand up for American values and restore full funding to UNFPA to preserve its lifesaving work around the world.”

Girl Up will continue to work closely with UNFPA to support programs in Guatemala, Liberia, Malawi, and India to help ensure that the world’s most vulnerable girls have an equal chance at education, are not forced into early marriage, and can live happy, healthy lives.