Remarks to A Group of Visiting Girl Scouts in Honor of The First-ever International Day of the Girl
Secretary of State
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues
Please click here to learn more about the new public and private initiatives marking the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child.
Archbishop Tutu, you greatly honor us by your presence here, and you inspire us every day by your moral leadership and commitment. It is my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of State who has been a champion for girls and women around the globe. And here at the State Department, she has put them at the heart of U.S. foreign policy. After all, progress for girls and women and progress for nations go hand in hand.
Secretary Clinton has consistently used her voice and her platform to remind us of the importance of valuing girls, who still, sadly, in too many places are neglected, marginalized, kept out of school, victimized by violence, and yes, millions are cast off as child brides. Around the world, the Secretary has raised these issues with government leaders and community leaders and put a spotlight on those policies and programs that are making a difference. So please join me in welcoming a tireless public servant, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Oh, thank you all. This is a very exciting day for us, and we’re thrilled that so many of you Girl Scouts celebrating 100 years of work and service can be here with us today for what we view as a very significant commitment and set of announcements concerning an issue that should be on the minds of everyone, namely child marriage.
Before I say a few words about that, I want to thank Under Secretary Sonenshine. Tara, thank you for getting us started here today. I want to thank Ambassador Melanne Verveer who has been the first ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues in the history of the country, a position created by President Obama and myself. And of course Archbishop Tutu, who I will have more to say about in just a minute, but someone who I have known for a long time and have admired even longer and am thrilled that he is with us and helping to lead the charge to end child marriage by 2030. So let’s see. We don’t have too much time to waste. We have to get started today.
But before I start on this important issue, I want to say a few words about a 14 year old young woman, Malala Yousufzai, who lives in Pakistan, who has been active in speaking out for the right of girls to get an education. She’s even blogged about it, and she has been very brave in standing up for the rights of girls in the area where she comes from in Pakistan. Yesterday you may have seen in the news she was attacked and shot by extremists who don’t want girls to have an education and don’t want girls to speak for themselves and don’t want girls to become leaders, who are, for a variety of reasons, threatened by that kind of empowerment. And so they shot Malala, and she’s in critical condition.
And I think we should be dedicating our efforts to brave young women, some of whose names we will know and some we will never know, who struggle against tradition and culture and even outright hostility and sometimes violence to pursue their hopes, their God-given potential to have a life of meaning and purpose and make contributions to their families, their communities, their countries, and the world. So yesterday’s attack reminds us of the challenges that girls face, whether it’s poverty or marginalization or even violence, just for speaking out for their basic rights.
And that reminds me of how much I benefited from my years associated with Girl Scouts, starting out as a Brownie, flying up, becoming a Girl Scout, becoming what we called in those years so long ago a Mariner Scout, acquiring badges. There’s some people of my vintage – (laughter) – or a little bit closer who can remember those days. But the Girl Scouts not only taught me great songs that I still sing, but lifelong lessons about leadership and the value of public service and friendships that go back all those years and keep me grounded because I’m with people who know that I had a really hard time starting a fire in the rain. (Laughter.)
So we’re here to celebrate what Girl Scouts has meant over a hundred years to so many young women. And I’m hoping that each and every one of you will help to light the way for others to come behind, not only in our country but around the world.
Tomorrow is the first ever International Day of the Girl Child. I think it’s fair to say Girl Scouts were ahead of their time. When Girl Scouts were founded a hundred years ago, that was pretty revolutionary. And even today, I think in some parts of the world it would still be considered that.
So it’s a chance to reflect back not only a hundred years of Girl Scouting but also the first ever International Day of the Girl Child. So what will we do to commemorate that? I think we have to commit ourselves to do more on behalf of girls everywhere. The Archbishop and I and a number of other partners have just come from a meeting where we discussed ways that both governments and families and not-for-profit organizations and businesses and everyone who cares about the world we want to see in the 21st century can work to improve the lives of girls.
And we talked specifically about child marriage, and one of the most effective solutions to child marriage, namely education. Every year, 10 million girls under the age of 18 become child brides, and many of them under the age of 16. And many of those girls are forced into early marriage, which robs them of the opportunity to continue their education, and it threatens their health, and it traps them in lives of poverty. The evidence shows us, and common sense would show us as well, that education can delay and even prevent child marriage, it can raise incomes, and it certainly can improve health.
So I’d like to share with you some of the initiatives that we are launching to try to prevent child marriage and promote girls’ education. Now, we’ve done a lot of this work for a long time. This is not a new commitment, but we have refocused it and elevated it to be one of the primary commitments within our overall decision that girls and women have to be at the heart of our foreign policy.
First, we will in the State Department do more to strengthen our tracking of child marriage in our annual Human Rights Reports. We want to send a signal to other countries that child marriage is a threat to the fundamental human rights of girls.
Second, USAID, working with the Government of Bangladesh, will sponsor a pilot program to test different approaches to address child marriage by expanding health care, education, and legal rights.
Third, USAID and PEPFAR, which is the organization that deals with the HIV/AIDS and health issues around the world, will tackle some of the barriers, like cost and safety, that keep girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo from continuing their education.
And finally, every teacher who comes to the United States through our teacher training programs will receive training to address the challenges that girls face staying in school. And we will sponsor teacher exchanges focused exclusively on girls’ education.
Now, we know that more girls go to primary school than go to secondary school in much of the world. What are the reasons for that? Why do girls not go on to secondary school? We want to know what would work in order to keep girls in school. And several partners are making major commitments – $20 million from the United Nations Population Fund, $25 million from the Ford Foundation to combat child marriage. To ensure that adolescent girls in developing countries make a successful transition to secondary school, the MasterCard Foundation is investing $39 million and the MacArthur Foundation $10 million.
We’re doing all of this because we want to try to give to every girl what we want for our own daughters. Here at home, I’m the mother of a daughter and believe in education, and I imagine that many of your mothers and fathers believe the same. And what we want to do is to make the case for education everywhere and to give every girl and every boy the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential no matter where they live.
Now, this initiative to end child marriage by 2030 is a strong commitment from something called the Elders. The Elders are distinguished people around the world who come together to study problems, to speak out, and advocate. And Archbishop Tutu is one of the Elders, and that’s no surprise because throughout his life he has been a great voice for justice and freedom, democracy and responsible, responsive government. He has stood up against apartheid and for the human rights and dignity of every person. And he has never lost the ability to be a very tough critic about what’s going wrong, but to do it with a human understanding of what more we together can do to solve problems. And that trademark sense of humor is the greatest experience you will have today.
Now, among his many achievements he is chair of the Elders, and the Elders have brought together 180 organizations to form something called Girls Not Brides, a global partnership to end child marriage by 2030. So please join me in welcoming Archbishop Desmond Tutu. (Applause.)