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First Lady Obama's Op-Ed on the International Day of the Girl

buzzz worthy. . .

First Lady Michelle Obama: This issue is personal for me.

For me, education has never been simply a policy issue – it’s personal.  Neither of my parents and hardly anyone in the neighborhood where I grew up went to college.  But thanks to a lot of hard work and plenty of financial aid, I had the opportunity to attend some of the finest universities in this country.  That education opened so many doors and gave me the confidence to pursue my ambitions and have a voice in the world.  For me, education was power.

And a few years ago, when I had the honor of meeting Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head just for trying to go to school, this issue got really personal for me.  I saw that the terrorists who nearly killed her were trying silence her voice, snuff out her ambitions, and take away her power.

That’s why I decided to work on global girls’ education as First Lady: because right now, there are tens of millions of girls like Malala in every corner of the globe who are not in school -- girls who are so bright, hardworking and hungry to learn.  And that’s really the mission of the Let Girls Learn initiative we launched last year – it’s a global effort to give these girls the education they need to fulfill their potential and lift up their families, communities and countries.   

Now, as First Lady, I have no budget of my own for programs, and I have no authority to make or pass laws.  That’s why, when we first launched Let Girls Learn, many folks doubted that we could make a real impact on this global issue. 

But over the past year and a half, we’ve established partnerships with some of the world’s largest companies and organizations that are committing money, resources and expertise.  We’re collaborating with countries like Canada, Mexico and the Nordic countries on girls’ education efforts.  Countries like Japan, South Korea, and the UK have collectively pledged nearly $600 million.  The United States is investing over a billion dollars through new and ongoing efforts and running Let Girls Learn programs in more than 50 countries.  The World Bank Group will be investing $2.5 billion over the next five years.  And through social media campaigns, Let Girls Learn has rallied people across America and across the globe to step up and be champions for girls worldwide. 

All of this is happening because time and again, whether it’s a head of state, a corporate CEO, or a 15-year-old girl here in the U.S., when people hear the stories of girls who aren’t in school, they want to help. 

That’s why CNN’s new film on global girls’ education, “We Will Rise,” airing for the first time this week, is so critically important – because it tells these girls’ stories.

This powerful film chronicles the lives of some of the girls I visited this past summer in Liberia and Morocco, two countries in Africa where many girls struggle to get an education.  I was joined in my travels by the actors and activists Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, who are also passionate about girls’ education, as well as CNN anchor Isha Sesay. 

Together, we sat down with girls in both countries to discuss the barriers they face and the dreams they hold for their futures.  Like so many girls around the world, many of these girls come from families struggling with poverty.  Some endure dangerous commutes to and from school each day.  Others face cultural pressures to drop out, marry young and start having children of their own.

But these girls have big plans for their lives.  They want to attend college and become doctors, teachers, engineers, entrepreneurs; and day after day, they do whatever it takes to get the education they need to fulfill their dreams.  They get up before dawn, and spend hours harvesting crops, cooking for their families and tending to their younger siblings before heading to class.  After school, they work as maids and in factories, and they study for hours late into the night. 

I hope you will be as moved by their stories as I was – and I hope you’ll visit LetGirlsLearn.Gov to learn more about how you can take action to help girls like them worldwide go to school. 

Unlike so many girls around the world, we have a voice.  That’s why, particularly on this International Day of the Girl, I ask that you use yours to help these girls get the education they deserve.  They’re counting on us, and I have no intention of letting them down.  I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as First Lady, but for the rest of my life.  I hope you will join me.


Since March 2015, Let Girls Learn has invested more than a billion dollars in new and ongoing government programming in more than 50 countries, and today announces more than five million dollars in new private commitments to girls’ education

Together with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and most recently the Department of Labor and the Department of Agriculture, Let Girls Learn includes more than a billion dollars in new and ongoing programming in more than 50 countries to address the range of challenges – both in and out of the classroom – girls around the world face in attaining the education they deserve. 
Today, in celebration of International Day of the Girl, Let Girls Learn announces the equivalent of more than five million dollars in new private sector commitments to help address the barriers that prevent adolescent girls from attaining an education.  Since the launch of Let Girls Learn, the White House has announced nearly 100 private sector commitments to adolescent girls’ education. By engaging governments around the world, the private sector, civil society and many others, Let Girls Learn is improving the future for millions of adolescent girls across the world.

More detail on all of the accomplishments Let Girls Learn has achieved can be found here.

New Announcements

RISE UP’s LET GIRLS LEAD is committing to deliver new programming worth $2.5 million to enable girls to finish school and delay early marriage in Malawi through its new ENGAGE Initiative. ENGAGE is an evidence-based program that addresses the complex needs of vulnerable adolescent girls by ensuring that they stay in school and avoid early marriage. Rise Up’s goal is to reach 300,000 marginalized girls in southern Malawi. Rise Up will also build public support for girls’ rights by investing in visionary Malawian leaders, providing them with leadership development and support to create innovative solutions that advance girls’ access to education. For more information, please contact Denise Dunning.

NEWMAN’S OWN FOUNDATION, founded by Paul Newman, announces a $200,000 donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund. An additional grant of $800,000 is being made to Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), which runs the Kibera School for Girls in Kenya, so girls may continue their educations through high school.  For more information, please contact Jan Schaefer.

ENDEAVOR ENERGY, an independent power development and generation company, is donating $400,000 over four years to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund to support volunteer-led education and empowerment projects in Africa.  A Power Africa partner, Endeavor continues to be a part of President Obama’s initiative to increase the number of people around the world who have access to power.  For more information, please contact Mike Gehrig.

CENTRAL ASIA INSTITUTE is committing $500,000 for educational services and programs that will benefit adolescent girls in some of Afghanistan’s most conflicted and disadvantaged communities. This includes construction of boundary walls and latrines, which are essential for the retention of female students. Girls who previously had no access to schooling will be prepared for a formal education in expedited Quick Learning Centers. Literacy and Vocational Centers will empower girls, teaching them how to read, write, and do basic math. Scholarship money will also be provided. Through this commitment, Central Asia Institute expects to reach 25,000-30,000 adolescent girls. For more information, please contact Hannah White.

WATER CHARITY, a California-based nonprofit, and the National Peace Corps Association announce a $200,000 donation to support water, sanitation, public health, and environmental projects implemented by Peace Corps Volunteers under the Let Girls Learn initiative.  Projects are implemented in rural villages to improve access to potable water, relieving girls of the burden of walking long distances to obtain water for their families each day.  Bathrooms are provided for adolescent girls at schools, ensuring that the facilities provide privacy and promote hygiene, thus helping create an environment that enables girls to remain in school. For more information, please contact Averill Strasser.

WORLD LEARNING AND THE WOMEN’S REFUGEE COMMISSION announce the “Pathways to Refugee Education” program, a new $250,000 collaboration aligned with the Let Girls Learn initiative.  “Pathways to Refugee Education” will help facilitate access to formal and informal education for adolescent girls in difficult circumstances with an initial focus on Lebanon.  The project will provide technical assistance and expert recommendations to governments, civil society, and international institutions that are designing, funding, and implementing assistance programs to address the unique circumstances and needs of adolescent girls. For more information, please contact Kimberly Abbott.

GIRL STARTER announces a $100,000 donation to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund. Girl Starter is a new media company that seeks to use the intersection of entertainment and technology to help girls—at home and abroad—become entrepreneurs. In a reality television series set to air in 2017, young women who wish to start their own businesses will learn about fundraising fundamentals and develop strategies using the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn fund as a cause to raise money. For more information, please contact Jeannine Shao Collins.

THE BARNEYS NEW YORK FOUNDATION is making a commitment to support the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund. The donation will support Peace Corps Volunteer-led projects aimed at helping break down the barriers to adolescent girls’ access to education. For more information, please contact Ashley Calandra.

CNN FILMS will premiere a new film about girls overcoming incredible challenges to achieve their educations and change their own lives, titled We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World on October 11 and 12. The film includes contributions from First Lady Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, Freida Pinto, and CNN journalist Isha Sesay. The Documentary Group, which produced CNN Films’ first co-production, ‘Girl Rising,’ also produced this special one-hour film. For more information, please contact Jennifer Dargan.

INSTYLE commissioned a limited-edition line of designer tote bags inspired by Let Girls Learn. For the each tote bag sold, InStyle will donate 100 percent of profits (a minimum of 30 percent of the purchase price) to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.  Each bag in the line was inspired by a different country where Let Girls Learn is creating lasting change. Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Narciso Rodriguez, Tanya Taylor, and DKNY’s Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne provided exclusive designs for the collection. For more information, please contact Reid Myers.

MPA - THE ASSOCIATION OF MAGAZINE MEDIA has garnered commitments from the magazine media industry to donate advertising space for Let Girls Learn Public Service Announcements that are running in 65 print magazines in fall 2016 issues, with most hitting the newsstand and subscribers’ mailboxes to coincide with the International Day of the Girl. The ad campaign is expected to reach more than 60 percent of U.S. adults through the support of 11 companies: Active Interest Media, Bloomberg Media, Bonnier, Condé Nast, Dwell Media, Forbes Media, Hearst, Meredith, National Geographic, Rodale, and Time Inc. For more information, please contact Susan Russ.

PLAYBILL Inc., is supporting Let Girls Learn through a public service announcement set of ads in upcoming Playbill publications to raise awareness about global girls’ education. The campaign will reach theatregoers for select shows running in New York this November.  For more information, please contact Mark Peikert.

ALEX AND ANI announces the launch of a Daisy Charm Bangle to be released in March 2017 in continued support of the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund.  Last year, ALEX AND ANI released the Kindred Cord Daisy bracelet as a commitment to Let Girls Learn, which has raised nearly $200,000 to support girls around the world who are out of school. For more information, please contact Keshia Holland.

NATIONAL PEACE CORPS ASSOCIATION (NPCA) has committed to contribute its Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) contributions in 2016 to the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn fund to support volunteer community-led projects around the world. NPCA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, encompasses a network of over 220,000 individuals and more than 150 affiliate groups. The mission of the CFC is to promote and support philanthropy through a program that is employee-focused and effective in providing all federal employees with the opportunity to improve the quality of life for all. For more information, please contact Glenn Blumhorst.

THE WORLD BANK, which recently pledged $2.5 billion over five years in education projects targeting adolescent girls, announces that it has already invested $530 million since April 2016 towards this goal. These resources will help adolescent girls gain access to quality education in some of the world’s most challenging environments, such as Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon, in Pakistan, where few girls complete secondary school, and conflict-affected areas in northeast Nigeria. For more information, please contact Kavita Watsa.