Monday, July 4, 2016

Let Girls Learn

Last week marked the start of a multi-country trip for First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters, Malia and Sasha, in the name of girls' education around the world and the "Let Girls Learn" initiative.

According to the New York Times, Mrs. Obama began her trip with a stop at a leadership camp for girls in Liberia, where she urged teenagers in one of the world's poorest countries to keep fighting to stay in school.

With her own teenage daughters joining her, Mrs. Obama told the girls in the camp that she was "just so thrilled to be here with you."

"I'm here to shine a big bright light on you," she said.

Education for girls is the central theme of the First Lady's trip, which also includes stops in Morocco and Spain.  She was welcomed on her arrival in Liberia with a red carpet and traditional dancers.

In connection with the visit, the United States Agency for International Development announced up to $27 million in funding in Liberia for "Let Girls Learn," an initiative introduced by Mrs. Obama and President Obama last year.

Liberia was battered by civil wars between 1989 and 2003.  Ebola swept the country in 2014, killing more than 4,800 people and forcing schools to be closed for months.

The country, founded as part of an effort to resettle freed American slaves, has deep ties to the United States.  The country's oldest vocational high school, in Kakata, is named for the civil rights activist Booker T. Washington.

The school suspended midterm exams, which had been scheduled to start on Monday, "to allow the students to give Mrs. Obama a rousing welcome to appreciate what the United States has done for us," said Harris Tarnue, the principal.

"She will be a real inspiration to the young girls around here," he said.

As First Lady, Mrs. Obama has previously visited the African nations of Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania.

From her "Let Girls Learn" promotional materials, she says, "I see myself in these girls, I see my daughters in these girls, and I simply cannot walk away from them."

Imagine being told that you are not allowed to go to school.  Imagine being told that an education -- one of the most fundamental building blocks for a healthy, long, and fulfilling life -- is simply not an option for you.

It's hard, right?  But, for millions of girls around the world, it's a reality.  In fact, more than 62 million girls -- half of them adolescents -- are not in school.  Millions more are fighting just to stay there.

These girls deserve a chance to fulfill their potential.  All girls deserve that chance.

Around the world, a girl can face complex physical, cultural, and financial barriers to education.  She may have a long, unsafe walk to school from a remote village.  Sometimes, even when a school is nearby, it may not have adequate bathroom facilities for girls -- meaning that female students have to stay home when they have their period.  And, even after overcoming all of these obstacles, she may face school fees that her family is unwilling or cannot afford to pay.

Yet, we know that educating young girls has a tremendously positive impact on the world.  Girls who are educated earn higher salaries, raise healthier families, and can even boost their countries' economies with their contributions to the workforce.  That's why, when girls receive equal educational opportunities, it can transform lives, families, communities -- entire countries.

No comments:

Post a Comment