Did you know that Michelle Obama's parents didn't go to college? But they believed in the power of education, and they made sure that both their kids - the girl and the boy - earned degrees. In some cultures, only the boy would have made it to school. It's easy to forget that fact. Gender-based barriers to education? It sounds like ancient, backwards thinking from faraway lands. But it's not. Girls around the world are facing obstacles to education - today - and there's something you and I can do, right now, to help them.
“I didn’t run for President so that the dreams of our daughters could be deferred or denied. I didn’t run for President to see inequality and injustice persist in our time. I ran for President to put the same rights, the same opportunities, and the same dreams within the reach for our daughters and our sons alike. I ran for President to put the American Dream within the reach of all of our people, no matter what their gender, or race, or faith, or station.” - President Barack Obama
It's a new White House initiative, designed to support the education of girls around the world. In only a year and a half, Let Girls Learn has gathered more than $1 billion in support for federal programs to educate girls in 50 nations around the globe. Michelle Obama has said she intends to dedicate the rest of her life to this cause. BOOM. She explains:
"Q: What would your want our readers to know in case they're hearing about Let Girls Learn for the first time? Why should they make room in their hearts and minds for this platform?
"A: For the same reason I did. Sixty-two million girls around the world aren't in school, and the first thing that comes to my mind is, 'That could've been me.' [I think about] how I would have felt at the age of 10 or 11 or 12 if somebody walked up and said, 'That's it. Your dreams are over! You're going to have to leave school and get married to somebody twice your age and start having kids.' It made me think, 'What can we do, besides feel bad, to change that circumstance?'"
Here are a couple of easy ways to start.
Watch We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World. It's airing on CNN this week. Call your friends. Watch it together. Download and use the viewing guide. Or better yet, download the Take Action guide and get busy. It doesn't take much. If you've got five minutes or five seconds, you can do something. You just have to start.
"But ultimately, for me, this issue isn’t just about politics or economics—for me, this is a moral issue. As I’ve traveled the world, I have met so many of these girls. I’ve seen firsthand that every single one of them has the spark of something extraordinary inside of them, and they are so hungry to realize their promise. They walk for hours each day to school, learning at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms. They study for hours each night, holding tight to their hopes for the future, even in the face of heartbreaking odds.
"These girls are no different from my daughters or any of our daughters. And we should never have to accept our girls having their bodies mutilated or being married off to grown men as teenagers, confined to lives of dependence and abuse. We should never have to raise them in societies that silence their voices and snuff out their dreams. None of us here in the U.S. would accept this for our own daughters and granddaughters, so why would we accept it for any girl on our planet?
"As a first lady, a mother, and a human being, I cannot walk away from these girls, and I plan to keep raising my voice on their behalf for the rest of my life. I plan to keep urging world leaders to invest in their potential and create societies that truly value them as human beings. I plan to keep reaching out to local leaders, families, and girls themselves to raise awareness about the power of sending girls to school. And I plan to keep talking about this issue here at home, because I believe that all of us—men and women, in every country on this planet—have a moral obligation to give all of these girls a future worthy of their promise and their dreams. "
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