UNICEF USA National Youth Council members met with a staff member in the office of Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) in 2023.
Children's Rights

UNICEF USA Advocacy 2023 Wrapped

A look at some of the ways UNICEF USA supporters mobilized in 2023 to advocate for policy change on behalf of the world's children. 

Around the world in 2023, millions of children were confronted with a broad array of humanitarian crises that threatened their lives and their rights. In response, UNICEF — through the support of the U.S. Government and the American public — helped deliver lifesaving services for millions of children. 

In welcoming the 118th Congress, UNICEF USA recommitted to prioritizing intentional and meaningful connections with legislators to advance policy change for children. Supporters across the country tuned in to our February webinar, "Advocating for Children in a New Congress," to meet with the Public Affairs team and learn how to use their voices for change through advocacy.

From left: UNICEF USA supporter Kristina La discusses advocacy opportunities with UNICEF USA Public Affairs Consultant Alexandra Grossi.
UNICEF USA Southern California supporter Kristina La, left, discussed advocacy opportunities with UNICEF USA Public Affairs Consultant Alexandra Grossi during a February 2023 webinar, "Advocating for Children in a New Congress."

Securing essential UNICEF funding

In March, UNICEF USA's National Youth Council traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as child rights advocates. The group met with Representatives from their home districts as well as other members of key legislative committees to request urgent support for the U.S. Government's contribution to UNICEF of $175 million. Thanks to the contributions of the National Youth Council, members from both the Republican and Democratic parties were briefed on UNICEF's impact through its response to emergencies, including providing treatment for severe wasting to more than 3 million children under age 5, reaching more than 23 million people with safe drinking water, helping nearly 14 million children access both formal and non-formal education and vaccinating 27 million children against measles.

Throughout 2023, UNICEF USA advocates called on Congress to stress the importance of supporting UNICEF and urge their support for the FY24 appropriations request. With funding decisions being pushed into 2024, we won't stop speaking out for this critical funding.

Ending child marriage in three more U.S. states

UNICEF defines child marriage as a harmful practice and a violation of child rights and believes that marriage before age 18 should be prohibited in all circumstances, everywhere. In the U.S., there is no federal law to protect children from child marriage. Each state sets its own requirements, and some have set no minimum age for marriage. UNICEF USA is a member of the National Coalition to End Child Marriage in the U.S., with a long-term goal of raising the minimum age of marriage in every U.S. state.

In 2023, U.S.-based advocates made great strides toward ending child marriage in the U.S. Over the summer, Connecticut, Michigan and Vermont banned child marriage, joining the growing list of states that have already outlawed the practice: Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. 

Protecting every child's right to education and mental health

UNICEF USA and its advocates continued to speak up on children's needs for access to mental health services, including in school settings. 

On World Mental Health Day in October, UNICEF USA called on advocates to address children's needs for mental health services both domestically and globally. Ana Suarez, a longtime UNICEF USA advocate, published an essay in The Sun Sentinal sharing why she continues to mobilize her community in Florida. National Youth Council member Paul wrote and presented his poem "Embracing What's Within" at the United Nations General Assembly to express his hopes for addressing stigma around mental health. 

Advocates like Ana and Paul were just a few of many who called on their legislators to pass the MINDS Act and to prioritize the mental well-being of children and youth in the U.S. 

The reauthorization of the READ Act was introduced this year, creating an opportunity to extend the original READ Act of 2017 for an additional five years and continue U.S. leadership and investment in basic quality education for children around the world. UNICEF USA worked with partners in the Global Campaign for Education (GCE-US) to meet with key legislators and request their support to reauthorize the bill. Advocates across the country also sent letters directly to their legislators urging their to co-sponsor the bill. This November, the READ Act reauthorization successfully passed in the Senate, thanks to this overwhelming effort. Our deep appreciation goes out to the Senate leads: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). 

Thank you, UNICEF USA advocates.

In 2023, you proved that policy change is possible — and that together, we can make a lasting impact in the lives and futures of the world's children. Thank you and congratulations, change-makers, for relentlessly pursuing policy change for every child this year. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season, and look forward to working together in 2024. 

Please visit the UNICEF USA Action Center to continue advocating for children.


TOP PHOTO: UNICEF USA National Youth Council members (from left) Sherry, Aryan, Kripa and Paul met with a staff member (center) in the office of Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA) to advocate for children's rights in 2023. © UNICEF USA