First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama are championing girls’ education around the world (Photo: The White House)
Yesterday at the White House, President Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let Girls Learn, a powerful new initiative to help girls stay in school across the world through community-focused efforts supported by nearly 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers in 60 countries. “Through this effort, Peace Corps will be supporting hundreds of new community projects to help girls go to school and stay in school—everything from after-school mentoring to girls’ leadership camps, to entrepreneurial projects,” explained Mrs. Obama. These will not be top-down projects from an office thousands of miles away—instead, the solutions will come from local leaders, families, and the girls themselves.
The President and the First Lady spoke about this initiative on March 3 in the East Room of the White House (Photo: Chuck Kennedy/The White House)
“Wherever they live, whoever they are, every girl on this planet has value. Every girl on this planet deserves to be treated with dignity and equality. And that includes the chance to develop her mind and her talents, and to live a life of her own choosing, to chart her own destiny. That may be obvious to us, but we know it’s not obvious to everyone,” said President Obama. “Sixty-two million girls around the world who should be in school are not. That’s not by accident. It’s the direct result of barriers, large and small, that stand in the way of girls who want to learn.” In some countries, less than 10% of these girls complete their secondary education.
Across the world, the reasons for the disparity in education varies: some families cannot afford the school feeds, or the local school doesn’t have a girls’ restroom, or going to school puts the girls are risk of kidnapping or murder by men who want to stop them from learning. Studies have shown that when girls are better educated, they’re more likely to delay marriage, their future children are more likely to be healthier, and their family has a more secure financial future—which, in turn, boosts the national GDP, according to President Obama, if you somehow weren’t convinced already.
Let Girls Learn is an ambitious endeavor, but it’s also a statement to the world that it takes a global community of people—not just strong leadership—in order to change the status quo. In a world where we’re constantly at arms with one another and negotiating on tenuous tightropes, we can all—hopefully—agree with The First Lady’s sentiment: “I want our young people to learn about the world and dream of being Peace Corps volunteers, and diplomats, and international business leaders, and more. I want all our young people here in the U.S. and around the globe to dream big dreams. I want them to have big, ambitious futures.”
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