On October 11th, the US Department of State’s Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues (S/GWI), in partnership with the Bureau of Global Health Security and Diplomacy and the Office of Global Youth Issues, hosted a series of events in celebration of the International Day of the Girl (IDG). The commemoration showcased a panel of young women championing mental health resources, a presentation highlighting PEPFAR's commitments to women and girls over two decades, and a discussion on girls' leadership and civic and political participation. In addition, Ambassador Rao Gupta announced the launch of the U.S. strategy on Women's and Girls' Civic and Political Participation, along with new funding to advance programs for women and girls.
The strategy's key objectives
The US strategy on Women's and Girls' Civic and Political Participation, a collaborative effort between S/GWI and the US agency for International Development (USAID), outlines the government's commitment to addressing adolescent girls' barriers to participation and expanding access to civic education and leadership development opportunities through three primary objectives:
Increase girls' and young women's access to quality, safe, inclusive, and participatory civic education, mentorship, leadership, and skills development opportunities.
Address the unique barriers that prevent girls and young women from participating in civic and political life by promoting an enabling environment where they can safely exercise their rights, representation, and leadership.
Elevate the voices of girls and young women as agents of change and leaders in their communities, countries, and on the global stage.
Ambassador Rao Gupta announced new funding to fortify women's and girls' programming:
USD 3.4 million to SHE's GREAT!: The US will fund a new iteration of GWI's flagship girls and youth program, Support Her Empowerment – Girls' Resilience, Enterprise, and Technology Initiative (SHE's GREAT!). This new funding will enable work across four regions and support youth seeking to challenge harmful gender norms and build a more inclusive, secure, and prosperous future for themselves and their communities. Currently operational in seven countries through IREX, the program will expand its reach to Namibia and the Dominican Republic. It will continue to work with secondary-age girls, youth allies, families, caregivers, schools, and communities to promote gender equality, increase access to STEM skills and mentorship, support youth-driven projects to boost empowerment, and design programs to raise awareness and respond to gender-based violence.
USD 2 million to CEFM in Nepal and Pakistan: The Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs and Save the Children will support local civil society organizations (CSOs) to engage closely with peace stakeholders, governments, and local partners to create awareness and prevent child early and forced marriage (CEFM). The partnership will focus on supporting and synchronizing community-based efforts and creating a conducive environment for changes in social norms and policy implementations.
USD 500,000 to UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to End Child Marriage: The US government will contribute funds to Phase III (2024-2030) of the implementations in 12 countries across Africa and South Asia, where the prevalence of child marriage and forced marriage is high. The program seeks to avoid early marriage and pregnancy in girls and young women.
Participating in this event marked a poignant full-circle journey for me, transitioning from being a recipient of such programs to a professional actively engaged in the realm of gender and economics. Growing up in rural poverty in Paraguay, I benefited immensely from various programs offered by the State Department, including the English Access Micro-scholarship, Youth Ambassadors, Opportunity Funds, and Women for Change Campaign. These initiatives provided me with invaluable mentorship, leadership training, and skill development opportunities, ultimately enabling me to become a change agent in my community. This trajectory led to access to national leadership platforms, academia, and professional opportunities. I know firsthand the transformative power of investing in women's and girls' empowerment, and I am heartened to witness greater strides toward this goal.
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