SEATTLE — Nearly 62 million girls worldwide still do not have access to education. In order to address this global education gap, First Lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters Sasha and Malia are traveling to three nations, Liberia, Morocco and Spain, on a campaign to highlight Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative.
The initiative was officially launched in 2015 by Obama and combines the efforts of the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and many other similar organizations. USAID alone pledged $27 million toward expanding “Let Girls Learn” and similar educational programs in Liberia. Also accompanying the Obama family on this multination campaign trip are celebrities and “Let Girls Learn” advocates Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep.
The First Lady and her “Let Girls Learn” team began their campaign in Liberia. While there, Mrs. Obama met with the first elected female head of state in Africa and female education supporter, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
In addition to meeting with officials and political figures, Obama, Sasha, Malia, Pinto and Streep also held talks and panels throughout the campaign with girls who are not currently receiving an education. These girls revealed to Mrs. Obama their aspirations to be educated and assume careers as doctors, politicians, engineers and teachers.
Along with personally meeting the girls that the campaign is focused on helping, the major incentive for the talks was to attempt to change the attitudes and beliefs that often stand in the way of allowing girls to go to school.
Usually, families find it more beneficial to marry off their daughters into other families rather than send them to school. Oftentimes, school fees, distance and inadequate bathroom facilities lead families to refrain from enrolling their daughters in school. If Let Girls Learn can convince more families of the benefits of allowing their daughters go to school, it would reduce the global education gap.
Also during the campaign, Michelle Obama tailored her discussions and speeches to each nation. While in Liberia, Mrs. Obama and her team launched girls’ empowerment programs. These programs address issues such as gendered violence and serve as support systems for victims of pregnancy or rape.
In Morocco, Mrs. Obama worked with the Moroccan government to discuss reforming the nation’s high schools and build new school dormitories. These facilities will allow girls living in rural areas to attend school far away from home. In Spain, Mrs. Obama stressed to an audience of young girls that countries like Spain and the U.S. must step up as integral supporters of female education and reform.
The campaign has been an overall success, pinpointing high-need nations and creating connections with those nations’ leaders to spur the movement towards enrolling girls in school and ultimately closing the global education gap.
– Jenna Salisbury