Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative is about more than just providing young ladies with better access to education; its aim is to change how women are “viewed and valued around the world.” That’s why after stopping in Liberia and Morocco, where the opportunities for girls to complete their educations are severely limited, earlier this week the First Lady visited Spain to rally people to the cause.
On Wednesday Obama landed in Madrid for the last leg of her international Let Girls Learn trip and spoke with young women about how they can help undereducated women throughout the globe achieve their dreams. “You all are so fortunate to live in a country that gives you so many opportunities to learn and to follow your dreams for your lives and for your careers,” she told the crowd. “But unfortunately, many young women today aren’t so lucky.”
Obama outlined the problems that come with limiting girls’ education: lower salaries, earlier marriages, higher infant and maternal mortality rates, higher HIV rates, and lower immunization rates. “So when girls can’t go to school: that affects their families’ health and the public health of their nations. It can even affect the strength of their economies and the security of their countries. And in today’s interconnected world, all of that can affect the health, prosperity and security of our countries too.”
And the problem isn’t just a lack of funding: it’s the way girls are valued for their bodies instead of their minds. “Every single one of us has the power—and the obligation—to be a champion for girls around the world,” she said, explaining that the work of governments isn’t all that’s needed to change the inequalities between women and men.
“You can start with how you raise your own children if you choose to have them. Maybe it means telling your sons that it’s OK to cry, and your daughters that it’s OK to be bossy. Maybe it means encouraging your daughters, not just your son, to study math and science and sign up for the football team. And if there isn’t a team for girls, maybe it means asking why not,” she said.
The First Lady also met with Spain's Queen Letizia (below) and told the crowd that they “had the opportunity to bond over many issues, including the joys and the challenges of raising strong, smart, outspoken girls,” referring to her teenage daughters Malia and Sasha.
Who run the world? Girls, indeed.