The First Lady of the United States has launched a campaign for girl’s education, Let Girls Learn.
In an article for the Wall Street Journal Obama outlined her mission statement: that investing in girl’s education is one of the most important issues facing the world today.
Obama is launching her campaign alongside Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and it is a global initiative. The First Lady is due to visit Japan and South East Asia – including a historic trip to Cambodia – this week where she will spruik the initiative.
The initiative aims to get more girls in school, and for longer.
According to Unicef an estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 34 million girls of lower secondary school age were not enrolled in school in 2011.
This has huge consequences. As Obama writes in her piece for the Wall Street Journal,
“Girls who attend secondary school marry and have children later, and they have lower maternal and infant-mortality rates and lower rates of HIV/AIDS. Every additional year of education can increase a girl’s earning power by 10% to 20%; and sending more girls to school can boost an entire country’s economy. National-security experts have even noted that educating women can be a powerful tool to fight extremism, violence and instability.”
However getting more girls into school requires more than token efforts, and working with communities to change deeply held values and traditions that might hold girls back.
As Obama writes of the way the program will work with communities,
“[W]hile the education gender gap is a global challenge, its root causes are often local, and they call for local solutions. That is the guiding principle behind Let Girls Learn, which is centered around a new, community-focused initiative run by the Peace Corps.”
Michelle Obama also appeared on Ellen this week where, in a gift to us all, she showed off her best dance moves to Uptown Funk.
The First Lady’s initiative fits in with work already being undertaken by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who almost lost her life campaigning for girls’ right to education.
Malala has established a charity, the Malala Fund which promotes girls education.
“I hope my story will inspire girls to raise their voice and embrace the power within themselves,” she wrote in the afterword to her book, I am Malala.