Senate Bills Advance the Rights of Girls and Persons with Disabilities

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Georgian youth with disabilities and their peers participate in an inclusive flash mob about disability rights, which was supported by IFES and the U.S. Agency for International Development Disability Fund. © Salome Dzneladze

On International Women’s Day 2021, the U.S. Congress announced the Girls Leadership, Engagement, and Development (LEAD) Act to promote girls’ involvement in civic and political processes through U.S. foreign assistance. The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has endorsed the bill and is calling for further support to:

  • Develop a united, comprehensive strategy on strengthening the participation of, in particular, adolescent girls in democracy, human rights, and governance;
  • Prioritize foreign assistance funding made available for democracy, human rights and governance programs in accordance with this act; and
  • Provide annual reporting to Congress on progress made by U.S. government agencies in support of this policy.

IFES also endorsed the Office of International Disability Rights Act and provides Congress with nonpartisan analysis, technical advice and resources on international disability rights, including through events, testimony, briefings and publications. The United Nations Youth Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimates that there are between 180 and 220 million youth with disabilities worldwide. The bill seeks to promote the global visibility and rights of all persons with disabilities, including children and young people with disabilities, through American development and diplomacy. IFES is promoting and calling for further support on this bill, which will also:

  • Establish a permanent Office of International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State , to be led by an ambassador-at-large for disability rights;
  • Require the U.S. Department of State to develop and implement a formal policy on disability inclusion;
  • Elevate disability rights across the U.S. government and multilateral fora;
  • Ensure the accessibility of U.S. embassies, consulates and other overseas facilities abroad; and
  • Require all civil service and foreign service personnel to undergo disability inclusion training.

Both the Girls LEAD Act and the Office of International Disability Rights Act align with IFES’ Strategic Outcome for Inclusion and Human Rights, inclusive youth programming and its organizational mission to build democracies that deliver for all.

Published on August 5, 2021.

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