Tag: “Let Girls Learn”

Michelle Obama Supports CNN Film “We Will Rise” on Global Education for Girls, Which Premieres Today

First Lady Michelle Obama "We Will Rise" (photo via education.microsoft.com)
First Lady Michelle Obama “We Will Rise” (photo via education.microsoft.com)

article by Michelle Obama via cnn.com

For me, education has never been simply a policy issue — it’s personal.

Neither of my parents and hardly anyone in the neighborhood where I grew up went to college. But thanks to a lot of hard work and plenty of financial aid, I had the opportunity to attend some of the finest universities in this country. That education opened so many doors and gave me the confidence to pursue my ambitions and have a voice in the world.

For me, education was power.

And a few years ago, when I had the honor of meeting Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head just for trying to go to school, this issue got really personal for me. I saw that the terrorists who nearly killed her were trying to silence her voice, snuff out her ambitions, and take away her power.

That’s why I decided to work on global girls’ education as first lady: because right now, there are tens of millions of girls like Malala in every corner of the globe who are not in school — girls who are so bright, hardworking and hungry to learn. And that’s really the mission of the Let Girls Learn initiative we launched last year: It’s a global effort to give these girls the education they need to fulfill their potential and lift up their families, communities and countries.

Now, as first lady, I have no budget of my own for programs, and I have no authority to make or pass laws. That’s why, when we first launched Let Girls Learn, many folks doubted that we could make a real impact on this global issue.  But over the past year and a half, we’ve established partnerships with some of the world’s largest companies and organizations that are committing money, resources and expertise. We’re collaborating with countries like Canada, Mexico and the Nordic countries on girls’ education efforts. Countries like Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom have collectively pledged nearly $600 million.

The United States is investing over a billion dollars through new and ongoing efforts and running Let Girls Learn programs in more than 50 countries. The World Bank Group will be investing $2.5 billion over the next five years. And through social media campaigns, Let Girls Learn has rallied people across America and across the globe to step up and be champions for girls worldwide.

All this is happening because time and again, whether it’s a head of state, a corporate CEO, or a 15-year-old girl here in the United States, when people hear the stories of girls who aren’t in school, they want to help.   That’s why CNN’s new film on global girls’ education, “We Will Rise,” airing for the first time this week, is so critically important — because it tells these girls’ stories.

This powerful film chronicles the lives of some of the girls I visited this past summer in Liberia and Morocco, two countries in Africa where many girls struggle to get an education. I was joined in my travels by the actors and activists Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, who are also passionate about girls’ education, as well as CNN anchor Isha Sesay.

Together, we sat down with girls in both countries to discuss the barriers they face and the dreams they hold for their futures. Like so many girls around the world, many of these girls come from families struggling with poverty. Some endure dangerous commutes to and from school each day. Others face cultural pressures to drop out, marry young and start having children of their own.

But these girls have big plans for their lives. They want to attend college and become doctors, teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs; and day after day, they do whatever it takes to get the education they need to fulfill their dreams. They get up before dawn, and spend hours harvesting crops, cooking for their families and tending to their younger siblings before heading to class. After school, they work as maids and in factories, and they study for hours late into the night.

I hope you will be as moved by their stories as I was — and I hope you’ll visit LetGirlsLearn.gov to learn more about how you can take action to help girls like them worldwide go to school.  Unlike so many girls around the world, we have a voice. That’s why, particularly on this year’s International Day of the Girl, I ask that you use yours to help these girls get the education they deserve. They’re counting on us, and I have no intention of letting them down. I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as first lady, but for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me.

First Lady Michelle Obama Writes Powerful Editorial for The Atlantic: “Let Girls Learn”

First Lady Michelle Obama (photo via firstladies.org)
First Lady Michelle Obama (photo via firstladies.org)

First Lady Michelle Obama advocate for young women and girls across the globe with today’s frank and forthright editorial in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Let Girls Learn.”

That is also the title of her initiative with President Obama, which is aimed at doing just that. The program will not only fund leadership camps and address resource limitations, but it will also educate girls in conflict zones and address broader cultural beliefs that prevent girls from growing up to be successful, independent women.

Read her powerful essay below:

Right now, 62 million girls worldwide are not in school. They’re receiving no formal education at all—no reading, no writing, no math—none of the basic skills they need to provide for themselves and their families, and contribute fully to their countries.

Often, understandably, this issue is framed as a matter of resources—a failure to invest enough money in educating girls. We can solve this problem, the argument goes, if we provide more scholarships for girls so they can afford school fees, uniforms, and supplies; and if we provide safe transportation so their parents don’t have to worry that they’ll be sexually assaulted on their way to or from school; and if we build adequate school bathrooms for girls so they don’t have to stay home when they have their periods, and then fall behind and wind up dropping out.

And it’s true that investments like these are critical for addressing our global girls’ education crisis. That’s why, last spring, the president and I launched Let Girls Learn, a new initiative to fund community girls’ education projects like girls’ leadership camps and school bathrooms; educate girls in conflict zones; and address poverty, HIV, and other issues that keep girls out of school.

But while these investments are absolutely necessary to solve our girls’ education problem, they are simply not sufficient. Scholarships, bathrooms, and safe transportation will only go so far if societies still view menstruation as shameful and shun menstruating girls. Or if they fail to punish rapists and reject survivors of rape as “damaged goods.” Or if they provide few opportunities for women to join the workforce and support their families, so that it’s simply not financially viable for parents struggling with poverty to send their daughters to school.

In other words, we cannot address our girls’ education crisis until we address the broader cultural beliefs and practices that can help cause and perpetuate this crisis. And that is precisely the message I intend to deliver this week when I travel to the Middle East. I’ll be visiting girls at a school in Jordan—one of many schools in that country educating both Jordanian children and children whose families have fled the conflict in Syria—to highlight the power of investments in girls’ education. But I’ll also be speaking at a global education conference in Qatar where I’ll be urging countries around the world to both make new investments in girls’ education and challenge laws and practices that silence, demean, and brutalize women—from female genital mutilation and cutting, to forced child marriage, to laws that allow marital rape and disadvantage women in the workplace.

We know that legal and cultural change is possible because we’ve seen it in countries around the world, including our own. A century ago, women in America couldn’t even vote. Decades ago, it was perfectly legal for employers to refuse to hire women, and domestic violence was seen not as a crime, but as a private family matter. But in each generation, brave people—both men and women—stood up to change these practices. They did it through individual acts like taking their bosses to court, fighting to prosecute their rapists, and leaving their abusive husbands—and through national movements and legislation that brought changes like the 19th Amendment, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act.   

Cultural shifts like these can spur countries to make greater investments in girls’ education. And when they do, that can cause a powerful ripple effect that can lead to even greater cultural and political progress on behalf of women. Girls who are educated marry later, have lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and are more likely to immunize their children and less likely to contract HIV. Educated girls also earn higher salaries—15 to 25 percent more for each additional year of secondary school—and studies have shown that sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s GDP.

And when educated girls become healthy, financially secure, empowered women, they’re far better equipped to advocate for their needs and aspirations, and challenge unjust laws and harmful practices and beliefs. So really, this can be a virtuous cycle.

A walk to school in the southern Indian city of Kerala (Arko Datta / Reuters)

But ultimately, for me, this issue isn’t just about politics or economics—for me, this is a moral issue. As I’ve traveled the world, I have met so many of these girls. I’ve seen firsthand that every single one of them has the spark of something extraordinary inside of them, and they are so hungry to realize their promise. They walk for hours each day to school, learning at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms. They study for hours each night, holding tight to their hopes for the future, even in the face of heartbreaking odds.

These girls are no different from my daughters or any of our daughters. And we should never have to accept our girls having their bodies mutilated or being married off to grown men as teenagers, confined to lives of dependence and abuse. We should never have to raise them in societies that silence their voices and snuff out their dreams. None of us here in the U.S. would accept this for our own daughters and granddaughters, so why would we accept it for any girl on our planet?

As a first lady, a mother, and a human being, I cannot walk away from these girls, and I plan to keep raising my voice on their behalf for the rest of my life. I plan to keep urging world leaders to invest in their potential and create societies that truly value them as human beings. I plan to keep reaching out to local leaders, families, and girls themselves to raise awareness about the power of sending girls to school. And I plan to keep talking about this issue here at home, because I believe that all of us—men and women, in every country on this planet—have a moral obligation to give all of these girls a future worthy of their promise and their dreams.  

Michelle Obama’s editorial via theatlantic.com

Obamas Launch “Let Girls Learn” Education Initiative

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President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama put their weight behind Let Girls Learn on Tuesday, an initiative to help girls around the world attend secondary school and complete their education.

“Let Girls Learn” began as a United States Agency for International Development effort last summer, and featured a video with celebrities like Alicia Keys and Shonda Rhimes. The goal was “to provide the public with meaningful ways to help all girls to get a quality education,” building on past work on girls’ education and empowerment around the world. Now, the Obama administration will enhance existing programs and expand efforts across the government and through partnerships with the private sector.

“A good education can lift you from the most humble circumstances into a life you never could have imagined,” the first lady said Tuesday when she and the president announced the plan. “I see myself in these girls. I see our daughters in these girls,” she said. “I want to use my time and platform as first lady and beyond to make a real impact.”

According to a FLOTUS tweet, women and girls make up 70 percent of those living in extreme poverty around the world, a fact that education can help change. Approximately 62 million girls around the world are not in school, explains a fact sheet published Tuesday by the White House, with half that number representing adolescent girls.

“These girls have diminished economic opportunities and are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence,” the fact sheet says. “Yet when a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy, educated family, and improve the quality of life for herself, her family and her community. In addition, girls’ attendance in secondary school is correlated with later marriage, later childbearing, lower maternal and infant mortality rates, lower birth rates, and lower rates of HIV/AIDS.”

imagesThe first lady will work with the Peace Corps to develop community-based solutions and recruit and train volunteers. During the first year of the program, the Peace Corps will implement Let Girls Learn in 11 countries—Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda—and will expand to additional countries the following year.

The initiative will include programs focused on education, empowerment and leadership, health and nutrition, preventing gender-based violence, and preventing child, early and forced marriage.

Partnerships with the private sector include commitments from the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, CARE, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., PBS Learning Media and the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up campaign.

To join the efforts please go to letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov

article by Stav Ziv via newsweek.com