The bipartisan Girls LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development) Act — legislation designed to promote girls’ leadership and participation in civic and political processes, including media literacy, through US foreign assistance —has been introduced by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland. 

Democratic Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland

The LEAD Act would make it US policy to ensure that all adolescents are able to fully participate in society, and are specifically able to exercise their civil and political rights in their communities and countries. The Act recognizes that strengthening media literacy skills is an essential element in a strategy designed to enhance girls’ participation in democracy and governance. 

Despite comprising over 50 percent of the world’s population, women are under-represented at all levels of public sector decision-making. “It is vitally important that we invest in (girls’) leadership potential early,” noted Senator Collins, “so that they can develop pathways to positions of political leadership and civic engagement.”

Current US assistance for girls’ empowerment and leadership is primarily focused around health and education efforts, not civic engagement and participation. 

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine

Additionally, the bill specifically highlights the importance of providing youth with media and data literacy skills. It recognizes that strengthening these skills is an essential element in a strategy designed to enhance girls’ participation in democracy and governance. By advocating for the development of a structural framework that ensures that media literacy education is made readily available to all youth, the LEAD Act ensures that everyone has access to the tools they need to critically process information so that they can make informed decisions in their household, community, and overall society.

“Providing girls access to the tools they need for success,” emphasized Senator Cardin, “supports stability and growth in their communities and across the globe.”

For more information about the Girls LEAD Act and other legislation regarding media literacy education, visit our national legislation page here.