While it’s widely accepted in the United States that girls have the right to go to school and get an education, this right is being jeopardized for some of our country’s most passionate female leaders.
Rosa Barrientos, from Los Angeles, CA has long been an advocate for girls’ education – her own and girls worldwide. She was one of the first Club leaders when Girl Up started in 2010. She said: “I joined the Girl Up Club in high school because I know how difficult it is for girls to get an education. My mother and I crossed the U.S.-Mexico border fleeing Ciudad Juarez’ high femicides rates so I can get the education my mother never had.”
Rosa had the chance to advocate for girls’ education on Capitol Hill in 2012, but stayed in Los Angeles out of fear of being deported at the airport.
When she finally received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, there was no stopping her.
Rosa lobbied for bills to End to Child Marriage and the Girls Count Act and raised thousands of dollars for United Nations programs to educate girls around the world. With DACA, Rosa is the first in her family to graduate from college and now works to share the advocacy skills she’s learned so other Dreamers can also obtain their educations goals. As the Director of Girl Up, an organization whose mission is to advocate for the rights of all girls, I know the potential girls have when they have access to an education. When girls are educated, they feel empowered to mobilize and lead their communities. Girls’ access to education is linked to an increase in positive decision making, high self-esteem and political participation. If Congress does not act, girls like Rosa will face limited educational opportunities, or at worst, deportation.
Right now, it’s getting harder for girls like Rosa to get a quality education in the U.S. The rescindment of DACA is a move against access to education; and any threat to education for girls is also a step back for achieving equality here in the U.S. We cannot take this opportunity away from the passionate young people in our country.
Girl Up Club leaders are part of the 690,000-undocumented youth who will lose protection from deportation due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s rescindment of DACA. U.S. Congress now has mere days before the winter recess to act to protect Girl Up Club members around the country.
This challenge to girls’ education can be solved. The Dream Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and longtime Dream Act advocate Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), grants permanent legal status to more than 1 million young people who arrived in the U.S. before they turned 18 and sets a direct path for U.S. Citizenship.
My mission is to ensure girls have access to an education everywhere in the world – whether they’re in refugee camps in Ethiopia, in remote villages in rural Guatemala, or a few miles from our nation’s capital.
The U.S. Congress holds the futures of undocumented youth in its legislative power.
It must act now before the winter recess so all girls in the U.S. can go to school and reach their full potential without fear of deportation.
Melissa Kilby is the Director of Girl Up, a leadership development organization with a girl-supporter network of 700,000 in the U.S. and abroad. Learn more at GirlUp.org