Cincinnati Enquirer: Protect all girls' access to safe education
By: Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Elina Govil
Every day, ongoing conflicts force mothers, fathers, and young children to flee their homes. They leave behind family, friends, pets, community, schools, belongings, and country, carrying with them only the hope of a better, safer life ahead. Often, they encounter a tough and dangerous journey. Along the way, many face violence, dehydration, starvation, rejection, even the death of loved ones, all while simply trying to protect themselves and find a safe home.
Stories of displaced people are scattered on the news and across social media platforms. Globally, there are now over 65 million displaced people, the highest amount since World War II of which are children and adolescents. For these children, access to a safe, quality education simply does not exist. The gross enrollment rate for primary school globally is 90 percent; however, among displaced children, it is only 50 percent, with an astonishingly low 22 percent enrolled at the secondary level.
This means millions of children – in particular girls in conflict zones – receive no education due to circumstances beyond their control. We cannot allow this to continue. Elina and I both are doing our part to ensure that displaced girls from around the world have access to education.
Elina was given the opportunity to attend the Girl Up Leadership Summit last summer. She never imagined that she would be able to make a difference in the lives of displaced girls from countries like Uganda and Ethiopia, all the way from Indian Hill High School in Cincinnati.
Over the summer, Elina spoke to U.S. senators and members of Congress about the importance of making sure that girls around the world have access to safe educational opportunities. Through her “Girl Up Lobby Day,” she gained the confidence and a platform to advocate for these girls in vulnerable settings.
Congressman Steve Chabot, knows the power of education all too well. As a former teacher, parent, and now grandparent, he firmly believes that education physically and mentally empowers our children.
That is why he sponsored H.R. 2408, the Protecting Girls Access to Education Act, with Congresswoman Robin Kelly from Illinois. Together, they pushed for a bill that focuses on making education for girls in vulnerable settings a priority.
Specifically, this bill calls for the U.S. government to encourage countries to provide safe, quality primary and secondary education for displaced children and leverages existing education systems where they are needed most.
This bipartisan bill overwhelmingly passed the House last week.
Now, the Senate must act to protect girls from forces that systematically subjects them extremist ideology, human trafficking networks, and relentless cycles of abuse.
That is why we need this bill now more than ever. This bill addresses the issue of girls’ access to education and lays the groundwork for the U.S. to help actually do something about it.
U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot of Westwood represents Ohio’s 1st House District. Elina Govil of Indian Hill is a teen advisor with Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign that raises awareness and funds to help educate and empower girls around the world.