America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, promoted the ‘Let Girls Learn‘ initiative at the White House’s celebration of the International Day of the Girl on October 11.
The ‘Let Girls Learn‘ initiative was launched in March 2015 and Obama has been promoting it vigorously. It has amassed more than a billion dollars, and is involved in programs and initiatives for girls’ education in over 50 nations.
The White House released an eight-page factsheet, outlining the reasons why educating girls around the world is a national imperative. It argued that the initiative should be taken up by the next administration.
“As the President has stated, educating girls is a national security issue; when girls are educated, communities are better equipped to cope with adversity, withstand crises, and make investments in future.”
On October 12, CNN aired its documentary film ‘We Will Rise’. The film features a trip that Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto took to Morocco, Liberia and Spain, and chronicles their interactions with girls they met in those countries.
“Women’s equality is the last challenge of the 21stcentury. The change in the status of women precipitates a lot of reaction and change around the world. In the empowerment of girls and education of women, we see governments change,” Streep told the Los Angeles Times, when asked about her participation in the film.
Before the documentary’s launch, Obama wrote about her own journey in an op-ed for CNN. She said that none of her parents went to college, but to thanks to hard work and financial aid, she was able to attend Princeton university. “For me, education is power.”
Michelle Obama also mentioned that the World Bank Group will invest $2.5 billion over the next five years in the initiative. Countries like Japan, South Korea, and the UK have also collectively pledged nearly $600 million, she said.
Obama also addressed girls from around the world on Skype, in association with Glamour magazine and with actress Yara Shahidi. She urged girls to do what they can to help each other.
Here are some highlights from what she said:
1. “In every room of power I’ve sat in I’ve had to learn that my voice has value or else what’s the point of me being in the room.”
2. “We have all this technology, all these tools. Use them. Use them to educate yourselves and reach out to girls around the world. Don’t just Snapchat what you’re eating; use that tool to impart knowledge, to share wisdom, to share your story and spread the word.”
3. “Sometimes we have to be better. Sometimes we have to work harder. Sometimes we have to come back from those negative thoughts in our heads about who we are and how we look and how people feel about us. So many of us are haunted by the voices of other people who tell us what we can’t do, and that’s something you have to work on every single day. Every woman you know is working on this. I am still working on it.”
According to a UNESCO report released in July 2016, there are 98 million adolescent girls who are being denied the opportunity to go to school.