Advocacy Successes

Girl Up is part of a community of organizations and individuals that have played an important role in advocating for girls’ rights. Together, we celebrate progress and achievements in advancing policies that promote the well-being of adolescent girls in developing countries.

Preventing Child Marriage

U.S. Foreign Policy

Advocates across the international girl community have long been advocating for more protections to prevent adolescent girls from being forced to get married before they are ready. Fundamentally, child marriage is a violation of human rights. It’s also a harmful practice that drags down communities and economies. When girls are safe, healthy, educated, and empowered, research has shown that they help have healthier children, earn more income, and help grow economies – making them powerful agents of positive change.

In 2013, this community reached a key milestone when the U.S. Congress enacted foreign policy to help prevent early and forced marriage as part of the Violence against Women Act (VAWA). Girl Up supporters rallied around the issue, coming together to take 17,000 online actions and hold dozens of meetings with their members of Congress.

To recognize the efforts of Girl Up, Senator Durbin (IL)—a longtime advocate for girls himself—sent this inspirational message to our supporters:

Now, Girl Up continues to work with the U.S. government to ensure that these policies are successfully carried out through our foreign assistance programs.

Raising the Legal Age of Marriage in Malawi

In Malawi, about half of all girls are married by the time they are 18, so this is a much-needed step to recognize the rights of girls. And thanks to our community of supporters, we helped girls in Malawi stand up against child marriage: In February 2015, Malawi passed a law which raises the legal age of marriage from 15 years old to 18 years old!

Elevating the rights and voices of girls is a key priority for the United Nations, the United Nations Foundation, and Girl Up:

  • In Malawi, the UN Foundation and Girl Up supported Let Girls Lead, an organization which provides leadership development to help girls become champions for their rights.
  • Let Girls Lead partnered with the Girls Empowerment Network and engaged more than 200 girls in Malawi in advocating for an end to child marriage with village chiefs and other leaders.
  • Additionally, Girl Up supports UN efforts in Malawi to make sure girls get the health and education they need and deserve.

Memory Banda is a girl from Malawi who has worked with Let Girls Lead and the Girls Empowerment Network since 2011. Her sister was married at age 11, but Memory defied expectations to stay in school. She wrote last year:

“I challenged my family and explained that early marriage was not for me. I told those who thought that I should marry earlier that education and freedom of my rights would be the path of my life. I personally needed to change the way society perceives and defines the needs of girls and women. Most importantly, I needed a different society which respects my choices as a girl.”

Girl Up continues to unite with other adolescent girl advocacy groups to end child marriage in countries around the world.

Counting Girls

Even though most countries do have birth registration laws, worldwide, 4 out of 10 births were not registered in 2012, according to UNICEF. That’s 290 million children living around the world today who are not counted. When a girl is denied a birth certificate, she is invisible to her government. Lack of documentation can prevent a girl from going to school, getting a job later in life, and accessing health and social services.

There’s a solution to make sure more girls around the world – regardless of where they are born – are counted just like everyone else: The Girls Count Act. Thanks to the hard work of our grassroots supporters, including two lobby days on this issue of birth registration and nearly 400,000 actions asking members of Congress to support Girls Count, It is now U.S. foreign policy for the government to support programs in developing countries that help improve birth registrations and documentation systems for all children.

Girls Count

In the 113th Congress, the Girls Count Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Steve Chabot and Rep. Betty McCollum and in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The bill passed both chambers in a bipartisan fashion and was signed into law by the President on July 12, 2015. It is now Public Law 114-24, which makes it a priority to encourage countries to ensure all girls and boys are provided birth certificates and other official documentation.

Supporting Children’s Rights

Children’s Law of Liberia

As a fellow of Let Girls Lead, funded by Girl Up, Aisha Cooper Bruce, alongside local organizations, advocated for the successful passage of the Children’s Law of Liberia in 2012 and is now working to support its implementation.

The Children’s Law marked a big step forward for Liberia. The law guarantees children’s rights, like their right to health and education. It also offers girls protection from child marriage, and provides victims of domestic abuse with increased support.

Aisha is the Program Director of Sisters With Power, a girls’ empowerment program of Helping Our People Excel (HOPE) and is doing a ton of positive work in Liberia.