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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the eve of the first International Day of the Girl Child, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled more than $100 million in public and private initiatives aimed at curbing child marriage worldwide and keeping young girls in developing countries in school.

Clinton made the announcement before an auditorium full of Girl Scouts celebrating the organization’s 100th anniversary. She was joined on stage at the State Department by Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of The Elders, a group of global leaders responsible for creating Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage.

The goal, said Clinton, is an ambitious one: to develop and support programs that bring about the end of child marriage by 2030.

“We don’t have too much time to waste. We have to get started today,” he said. “We want to give every girl, and every boy, the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential no matter where they live.”

Among the programs announced:

• In 2013, the State Department’s annual country Reports on Human Rights Practice will track every country’s legal minimum age of marriage as well as the rate of marriage for girls and boys under 18. The department uses those reports, which are submitted to Congress, to evaluate countries that receive U.S. assistance.

• Working with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will launch a pilot program, working with religious leaders, media, local governments and NGOs to foster community support for an end to child marriage.

• The UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has pledged $20 million over the next five years for programs in 12 key countries—including Guatemala, India, Niger and Zambia—aimed at curbing child marriage by keeping young girls in school and teaching them life skills, as well as supporting girls who are already married with leadership development programs.

• The nonprofit Ford Foundation, which helped launch Girls Not Brides with The Elders, has committed $25 million over the next five years for efforts to end child marriage in India, Nigeria, Egypt and other countries in Central America and Southern and West Africa.

The new initiatives that focus primarily on supporting universal education for girls include:

• A program in East Africa, Nigeria an India to improve girls’ enrollment in secondary education, sponsored by $10 million over the next five years from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and $39 million from The MasterCard Foundation.

• EAGLE, or Empowering Adolescent Girls to Lead Through Education, a joint effort between USAID and the Presidents’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The program, which has a $15 million budget over the next five years, focuses on resolving problems—like cost and school safety—that keep adolescent girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo from going on to secondary school.

• Also beginning in 2013, all teachers who come to the U.S. under department-sponsored training programs will be required to take courses that improve their ability to recognize the challenges girls face in the classroom.

Clinton specifically mentioned the plight of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot Tuesday on her school bus. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for seriously wounding the outspoken teen, who had written extensively on her blog about the threats posed to girls trying to attend school in her country.

“Yesterday’s attack reminds us of the challenges girls face just for speaking out for their basic rights,” Clinton said.

Tutu also addressed the crowd, noting that as barriers to women’s advancement have fallen, the world has benefited. Ending child marriage will have a similar effect, he said, dealing blows to poverty, disease and violence.

“Without women, the world faces perdition, destruction. We need you. We need you to save us, so we’ve got this incredible commitment,” said Tutu, who is participating in Thursday’s International Day of the Girl events at the UN. “Just think what a wonderful world this will be.”

WANT TO JOIN THE DISCUSSION?

Celebrate the first ever International Day of the Girl and join @Girls Not Brides’ Google Hangout to discuss how we can end child marriage now. Tune in at 10 a.m. EST on Thursday, 10/11/12, to join Mary Robinson of The Elders, Christy Turlington, UNICEF and others to discuss how we can enable millions of girls to fulfill their potential. bit.ly/R0o4j1 

 
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