The House on Wednesday passed legislation by voice vote to expand scholarships available to Pakistani women and provide aid for women's rights in developing countries.

One bill, H.R. 3583, would increase the number of scholarships for Pakistani women to honor Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for women's education who was shot by the Taliban in 2012. Yousafzai, 17, won the Nobel Peace Price last month.


The measure would direct the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to award Pakistani women with at least 50 percent of the scholarships under the Merit and Needs-Based Scholarship Program.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the bill's sponsor, said it was imperative to promote women's education, particularly in developing countries that limit women's rights.

"We know that access to education is a game changer for any society," Ros-Lehtinen said. "A society in which women have unfettered access to the education system expands the horizons not just for the girls and the women involved, but for everyone in their community and their nation."

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said promoting women's education could also deter radicalism in developing countries.

"Educated women and girls are proving to be some of the most powerful weapons in the fight against radicalism. Take the example of Malala, the courageous young woman," Engel said.

"I know she inspired me, and spurred action around the world," Engel added.

Another bill, H.R. 3398, would authorize the State Department and USAID to provide assistance for women in developing countries. That support would include programs to boost civil registration systems that record births as well as programs that promote women's property rights.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that implementation of the measure would cost $1 million over five years. 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said improving civil registries' to record births would help women obtain identification and engage in financial transactions. 

"Usually the births which are not being registered are of infant females," Royce said. "A child whose birth is not recorded has no birth certificate to prove her age or his age or parentage or citizenship, making these children especially vulnerable to violations of their basic rights."

Engel said the practice of not recording children's births prevent them from accessing many crucial services and make them vulnerable to child labor and sex trafficking.

"Unregistered children are often prevented from access to health care, including necessary child immunizations, and from enrolling in school," Engel said. "This sort of marginalization often hits women the hardest."