On March 8, First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Union Market to deliver remarks in celebration of the one year anniversary of “Let Girls Learn,” an initiative that mobilizes local communities to help girls around the world receive an education.
The “Let Girls Learn” initiative was initially launched by USAID in 2006, and this past March marked the one-year anniversary of the program’s re-launch. The revamped and expanded initiative is a collaborative effort by USAID, the White House, the Peace Corps and the Department of State.
Three main pillars comprise the approach of “Let Girls Learn” – Increasing Access to Quality Education, Reducing Barriers and Empowering Adolescent Girls.
The Peace Corps has adapted these pillars to develop its own, more personalized approach. According to the Peace Corps’ webpage on “Let Girls Learn,” they have three aims for the program. These include empowering local leaders “to create solutions that increase the ability of girls to go to school and champion girls’ education, “work hand in hand with local communities to create change,” and “increase the impact of Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) during their service.”
The initiative has boasted tremendous success since its initial launch in 2006. Following America’s lead, Japan, the U.K. and other nations have all pledged over $500 million to support similar girls’ education programs.
USAID reports a number of impressive achievements for “Let Girls Learn.” The program has operations in 18 African countries. It has trained over 300,000 teachers around the world, and the initiative provided over 35 million textbooks and teaching materials in just one year. In Ethiopia, USAID’s efforts through “Let Girl Learn” has helped the country achieve 95 percent enrollment in primary school for the past 15 years.
The re-launch of “Let Girls Learn” promises to bring even greater strides in improving access to quality education for adolescent girls. In her speech on March 3, the First Lady announced a number of new and valuable commitments to the initiative.
Alex and Ani, a jewelry company known for its charm bangles, plans to launch a special bangle that benefits “Let Girls Learn” throughout the spring of 2016. The company will donate 20 percent of proceeds to the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund. In an article published in US News, Chief finance and operating officer of Alex and Ani, Jayne Conway, is quoted as saying, “We all have a responsibility to help empower women to learn and succeed.”
J.Crew, Procter & Gamble, JetBlue and a number of other companies have also pledged to donate to the Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund. CSOFT International, a translation service, will help translate “Let Girls Learn” materials, such as Peace Corps training literature, into multiple languages.
These funds and services will help the Peace Corps organize community-led efforts to tackle issues that prevent girls from attending school—such as poverty, HIV and lack of sanitary products—and encourage girls’ leadership development.
The First Lady expressed her strong support of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative’s community-centered approach. On Tuesday, she stated, “In the end, that’s how we’re going to solve this problem for one girl, one school, one village at a time. If we can make this kind of progress in just a year, if we keep putting in this effort and this investment these girls deserve, we can get this done.”
– Clara Wang