Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center

Zonta International is a global organization of women and men dedicated to empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy. The Zonta USA Advocacy Action Center is a tool for our members in the United States and other individuals who share our commitment to gender equality to take action to improve the lives of women and girls. With your help, we can make a difference. In addition to the actions below, click here to support our joint efforts with UNICEF USA to end child marriage in the United States.

Support civic engagement and political leadership of adolescent girls around the world
Girls often face systemic barriers to civic and political participation because of their age and gender. Despite comprising more than 50% of the world’s population, women are underrepresented at all levels of public sector decision-making. According to a World Economic Forum report, it will take more than 100 years to achieve gender parity in political participation.

School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed nearly 743 million girls around the world out of school, on top of the approximately 132 million between the ages of 6 and 17 already out of school prior to the pandemic. An additional 2.5 million girls are at risk of child marriage between 2020 and 2025, in addition to the 12 million adolescent girls under 18 who are already expected to marry annually.

The Girls LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development) Act promotes girls’ leadership and participation in civic and political processes through U.S. foreign assistance.

Women’s political participation results in tangible gains for democracy, including greater responsiveness to citizen needs, increased cooperation across party and ethnic lines and more sustainable peace. Engaging adolescent girls more in civil and political activities contributes to increased political participation and women’s leadership around the world. 

Adolescents who participate actively in their community from early on are more likely to become engaged citizens and voters, with higher levels of ambition for future leadership positions in both politics and the private sector. Their safe, meaningful and appropriate participation is key to creating democratic societies with informed and engaged citizens.

Empowering adolescent girls and young women in childhood and as they transition to become adults, investing in their leadership potential, and ensuring there are established pathways to positions of political leadership and civic engagement contribute to ensuring a world where women can thrive as political leaders and decision-makers, in economic spaces and across society. The Girls LEAD Act, S. 634 and HR. 1661, will:

  • Support the capability of adolescent girls to assume leadership roles and influence decision-making in their communities.
  • Ensure an evidence-based and best practices approach to initiatives supporting girls’ civic and political leadership.
  • Encourage the U.S. to meaningfully consult and engage with girls and boys in development initiatives.
  • Identify specific barriers to girls’ and women’s civic and political engagement.
  • Bolster the capacity of civil and political institutions to engage with girls as agents of change and prioritize local and national girl-led or girl-focused civil society organizations.

The bipartisan Girls LEAD Act was reintroduced in the House by Rep. David Trone [D-MD] on March 8 and in the Senate by Sen. Susan Collins [R-ME] on March 9. Please use our pre-drafted letter to urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor and support the Girls LEAD Act. If they have already sponsored or co-sponsored the bill, you can send a message of thanks.

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