Michelle Obama: it’s a ‘devastating loss’ when girls don’t go to school

Girls' education

Michelle Obama greeted by schoolgirls in London today

Michelle Obama gave an emotional speech today on the importance of education for girls around the world.

Speaking to an audience of schoolgirls in London, the First Lady said: “There are more than 62 million girls around the world who are not in school… This isn’t just a devastating loss for these girls, it’s a devastating loss for all of us for missing out on their promise.”

She spoke as a $180 million initiative between the United Kingdom and United States was announced that will help 450,000 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo get a primary education and help almost 1.4 million girls and boys learn to read.

Mrs Obama made her impassioned speech at Mulberry School for Girls in London, where she was given a rousing reception by students.

Mrs Obama talks about the struggles of girls' education

She told them: “Girls like you inspire me and impress me every single day. I am so proud of your passion, your diligience, your grit and determination.”

The First Lady told how she had faced opposition and uncertainty as she dreamed as a young girl of going to university.

Mrs Obama added: “You know what it's like when a family struggles to make ends meet. You know what it's like to be overlooked and underestimated because or who you are or what you believe in or where you come from.

“And the world needs more girls like you growing up to lead our parliaments and our boardrooms and our courtrooms and our universities. We need you.

“I've seen again and again and again that what our parents told us really is true. That if we get our education, we can do anything.

With Justine Greening and Peace Corps Volunteer Bina Contreras

“We can lift up ourselves to heights we could never imagine.”

Mrs Obama is on a two-day trip to Britain to discuss ways of improving girls' education and better support for military families. The joint UK-US initiative will also see the two countries' development agencies and two leading universities collaborate on evidence-based research to determine the best ways to educate adolescent girls.

British and American partners will work together to support teacher training, girls’ leadership camps and other community-based programmes in DRC and other developing countries.

The initative will focus on helping girls who are out of school in conflict-affected areas, such as North and South Kivu and Katanga, to get back into learning programmes. It will also include work to tackle sexual and physical violence and intimidation in the classroom.

The collaboration is part of the Let Girls Learn initiative, which was launched in March by President Barack Obama and his wife as an expansion of their efforts to help girls across the world go to school and stay there.

The audience at Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets also heard from UK international development secretary Justine Greening and Julia Gillard, former Australian prime minister and board chair of the Global Partnership for Education.

Ms Greening said: “If we are going to see girls around the world having the kind of prospects we want for girls here in the UK, able to reach their potential, then we all need to speak up for those girls who don't have that kind of a voice.”

Ms Gillard took part in a question-and-answer session with Mrs Obama and the students. Asked what communities can do to help girls get an education, she said: “We can inspire change. You can do that individually, pairing up with girls around the world, exchanging your life stories with their life stories. And then you can use that energy to advocate for education globally.”

Girls’ education campaigner tells Michelle Obama: ‘We are unstoppable’

You can speak up too about girls education. Sign the #UpForSchool Petition, which call son world leaders to keep their promsie of education for every child in every country.

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