Speaking at the Most Powerful Women summit in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Obama called on the nation’s top business leaders to support the Let Girls Learn initiative to help girls attend and complete their education. A staggering 62 million girls worldwide aren’t in school because of economic and cultural barriers.
The initiative builds upon the Let Girls Learn public engagement campaign launched last summer by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to increase opportunities for adolescent girls and help them reach their potential as adults. Programs focus on education, leadership and empowerment, health and nutrition and gender-based violence prevention, among other areas.
Based on her travels around the world, Mrs. Obama said too many bright girls are denied their dreams and goals early in life because they can’t finish school. In the long term, that reduces their economic opportunities and makes them more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage and other forms of violence.
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Rewards of staying in school are far-reaching. Educated girls are more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy, educated family and improve the quality of life for her entire community. Countries with more girls in secondary school have been found to have lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates and better child nutrition.
Every year of secondary school can increase a young woman’s future earnings by 18%, according to World Bank study cited by Mrs. Obama.
To further efforts of Let Girls Learn, the Peace Corps is training its 7,000 volunteers to educate girls through leadership camps, mentorship programs and the construction of school libraries. Let Girls Learn also is launching a $25 million fund to help find the best solutions to reducing barriers to attending and staying and school.
Mrs. Obama urged business leaders to get involved with efforts to build partnerships with other organizations and governments to commit resources toward educating adolescent girls worldwide.
The mother of two daughters, Mrs. Obama said promoting education for girls will remain a lifelong priority for her, even after she and her family leave the White House.