CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 3398, the Girls Count Act of 2014, as amended, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 3398 was introduced by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) on October 30, 2013 and was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The bill was marked up on July 30, 2014 and was ordered reported, as amended, by unanimous consent.
H.R. 3398 authorizes the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide assistance to support the rights of women and girls in developing countries for five years. Specifically, H.R. 3398 authorizes the Secretary and the Administrator to 1) support programs that improve Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems, with a focus on record of birth; 2) promote programs that empower developing countries’ legal systems to prevent discrimination against girls; 3) support programs that increase property, land, and inheritance rights for women; and 4) assist developing countries to ensure girls’ equitable access to social programs. H.R. 3398 requires the coordination of these efforts with international organizations, the private sector, and civil society organizations. The bill requires that the Secretary and the Administrator include in reports to Congress information on the beneficiaries of U.S. foreign assistance, a description of how such assistance benefits girls; and information on programs that specifically address the needs of girls.
The international data provided in 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that one in twelve, or nine million individuals around the world, are girls or young women between the ages of ten and twenty-four. The births of almost one-third of children around the world have never been registered, and approximately forty-five percent of children around the world under the age of five do not have a birth certificate. Such nationally recognized birth records are especially critical for determining citizenship, nationality, and place of birth, and the absence of such records is a barrier to officially participating in various sectors of society. The lack of birth records especially impacts girls, who are already more vulnerable to trafficking and child marriages, and lack access to health and education resources. The lack of information on girls and young women prevents an accurate assessment of education and poverty levels, and hampers broader efforts to accurately gauge the need for foreign assistance and domestic social welfare programs.
 H.R. 3398
According to CBO estimates, implementing H.R. 3398 would cost less than $500,000 per year, a total of $1 million from 2015-2019. The bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.
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