AMERICAN JEWISH WORLD SERVICE: AJWS COMMENDS STATE DEPT GLOBAL STRATEGY TO EMPOWER GIRLS

New York, NY – American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, commends the United States Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls for its focus on ending early and child marriage, making it possible for girls to remain in primary and secondary school, and investing in the physical and mental health and wellbeing of girls. This far-reaching strategy was released today by the U.S. State Department Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, in partnership with USAID, Peace Corps, PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which serve as the five main implementers of U.S. government programs to empower girls globally.

The plan gives adolescent girls the recognition and focus they deserve as a global population whose health, development and rights are essential to the future of our world. These proposed efforts by the United States government are crucial to empowering women and girls across the globe, as women and girls often face discrimination and violence and are denied the right to make decisions about their education, professions, relationships, marriage, sexuality and health.

In regard to the strategy’s specific focus on ending early and child marriage, AJWS lauds the inclusion of:

A central focus on the agency or ability of girls to make decisions about their own lives;
The need for accessible and available services and institutions to support girls in making key choices; and
The recognition and importance of girls’ aspirations for their lives.
AJWS, which provides financial aid to grassroots organizations across the developing world working to support adolescent girls, urges the swift and thorough implementation of this strategy by the current and future U.S. administrations.

“As a leader of an organization that supports grassroots advocacy groups working on behalf of women and girls in 19 countries, I am deeply gratified that the United States government is using its prestige and power to advance the same goals as those of our partners around the world. We applaud Ambassador Russell for her steadfast commitment to integrating the rights of women and girls into U.S. foreign policy,” said Robert Bank, incoming president of American Jewish World Service.

“We are very encouraged that this strategy recognizes the challenge of early and child marriage which affects as many as 15 million girls worldwide each year and serves as a structural and cultural barrier to the empowerment of girls. Early and child marriage hinders the education of girls, negatively affects their health and wellbeing and that of their children, limits their economic opportunities and undermines their empowerment,” said Bank.

“We support the State Department’s analysis of this issue, which understands that early and child marriage is a manifestation of rigid and destructive gender norms and that these norms must be addressed if we are to end child marriage and empower adolescent girls in all aspects of their lives. We believe that we will only solve this problem and empower girls when we fund and implement programs at the community level, tailor our responses to the local context and steadfastly focus on the needs of girls,” added Bank.

“We draw energy and wisdom from the advocates, organizations and movements we fund in India and other countries which are working to empower girls. I am deeply gratified that this new U.S. strategy will bolster our organization’s efforts, as well as those of our numerous partners in the developing world, to advance the rights of women and girls,” said Bank.

“With the release of this robust strategy to empower adolescent girls, the U.S. is taking a tremendous step forward in the global effort to ensure that this and future generations of girls and women can shape their own lives and the world we live in.”