In their travels around the world, Reps. Lois Frankel and Susan W. Brooks have seen firsthand the challenges girls face when it comes to getting an education. So to mark the International Day of the Girl, the two lawmakers are introducing legislation to do something about it.
The bipartisan effort, known as the Keeping Girls in School Act, would ensure the U.S. Agency for International Development spends allocated money to keep girls in school and get more of them into secondary schools.
“Each girl that we can get into school and keep in school and get educated will be added value to the economy and the overall wellness of our world,” said Frankel, a Florida Democrat.
Brooks, an Indiana Republican and the daughter and mother of teachers, called education “the key to empowerment.”
The two co-chair the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues.
“People will say, ‘Why do you care if girls are educated in Africa or Jordan?’ What I can tell you from sitting on the Foreign Affairs Committee now for my third term … is that women have the potential, it’s almost untapped potential right now, in terms of economic progress for the world and peace for the world,” Frankel said.
She recalled a 2015 trip to the southeast African country of Malawi, where she met with young girls who had to walk far distances to get to school.
“There was a great fear of sexual assault when they were walking. Obviously, the barriers of child marriage is a great obstacle. We heard from a number of activists who talked to us about genital mutilation, which also sets these young girls back,” she said.
Brooks visited a boarding school in neighboring Tanzania that same year with the Aspen Institute.
“[I] certainly learned about the importance of girls staying in school and what a difference it can make in their villages and their lives in the future,” she said.
Also in the House, California Democrat Susan A. Davis and Alabama Republican Martha Roby lead a group to Afghanistan annually on Mother’s Day to meet with U.S. troops as well as Afghan women. Brooks went on the trip in 2017.
“We heard from [Afghan women] very directly what their lives have been like to not have education,” the Indiana Republican said. “What was so interesting about that was we met with older women that have been through the education system until the Taliban came into power and they were forced back into their homes … what it’s been like for them to come back out.”
Frankel met with Syrian refugees during a visit to a school in Jordan in 2015.
“I went to some places where young girls who had been trafficked have been taken in and they were also being educated,” she recalled. “The barriers that the young girls face are very, very different than the boys, no question about it. Because the girls are trafficked more, they’re sexually assaulted, they’re generally mutilated.”
Brooks said U.S. involvement in countries such as Afghanistan has “dramatically” changed the lives of girls and women.
“Obviously, that country still has a very long way to go, but keeping girls in school is a critical component of success for many countries and certainly those girls and their families,” she said.
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