Birth registration bill signed into law!
by Mark Engman, Director Public Policy and Advocacy
On Friday, June 12, 2015, the President signed into law: S. 802, the "Girls Count Act of 2015." With that, the Girls Count Act became law, capping more than a year of policy and advocacy work by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and UNICEF volunteers.
UNICEF’s report in December 2013 highlighted gaps in access to birth registration, and how the lack of a birth certificate harms children, especially girls. When we shared that report with U.S. Government officials who work on international development programs, they acknowledged that birth registration is important; but also noted that birth registration was not a specific priority in any particular development program, so their ability to support birth registration was limited.
The Girls Count Act will help change this, by formally making birth registration a priority in our foreign assistance programs, for girls and boys alike. With our partners at the UN Foundation, we worked hard to engage a bipartisan group of Congressional offices on legislation that would address this issue.
A good issue and good legislation make for a good start. But with hundreds of pieces of legislation to consider, even good bills can get lost in the crowd. Members of Congress need to hear that their constituents care about an issue in order to act on it.
That is where our UNICEF supporters came in. Thousands of our volunteers contacted their federal legislators asking them to cosponsor and support the Girls Count Act. Our regional board members visited their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill (see Susan Littlefield's blog post); and followed up with their legislators’ district offices. Those actions helped convince the U.S. Congress to take up and pass the Girls Count Act without opposition.
Now that the Girls Count Act is law, with our NGO partners, we will stay on top of U.S. Government plans to implement this law and help more girls and boys have access to birth certificates.
Thank you for making a difference! And stay tuned for other opportunities to help make the world a better place for children.