This post is part of a series authored by First Lady Michelle Obama to share her visit to Qatar with middle school and high school students in the U.S. You can read it on Medium here.
Today, I spoke at the World Innovation Summit for Education, a major international conference that brings together about 2,000 people from 120 countries to talk about important issues in education like making sure students have the skills they need for exciting careers, and giving teachers the support and training they need to do their jobs, and designing schools for the future — schools that will educate students decades from now.
Some of the people at this Summit are researchers who study education and try to figure out what’s working in schools and what isn’t. Some of them work in their country’s government, so they make education policy for millions of students, deciding what subjects they need to study, what tests they need to pass, and more. And some people work at businesses or organizations that are coming up with new technologies for classrooms or trying to make sure kids from all backgrounds get a good education, no matter where they come from or how much money their families have.
So the people attending this Summit know a thing or two about education, and I was excited to speak with them about global girls’ education, the issue that is the focus of this trip and of my international work as First Lady.
In my speech, I talked about some of the reasons why 62 million girls aren’t in school (see my opening blog post), and I urged countries around the world to invest more money in educating girls so we can help them pay their school fees, and provide safe transportation for them to school, and make sure their schools have bathrooms for girls.
But I also said that we cannot address our girls’ education crisis until we address broader cultural beliefs and practices that are harmful to women and girls — beliefs and practices that too often silence their voices, disregard their intelligence, and limit their dreams.
I talked about how we need to change laws that fail to protect women from violence; end harmful practices like forcing girls to get married when they’re still children; and do more to ensure that once girls get their education, they can get good jobs and support themselves and their families.
I then urged everyone at this Summit to go home to their countries and start shaking things up a little. I urged them to push for more investments in girls’ education and to challenge beliefs and policies that are harmful and unfair to women.
And today, I want to issue the same challenge to you. I want you to go to LetGirlsLearn.Gov and see how you can get involved in supporting girls’ education projects across the globe. I also want you to educate your classmates about this issue: write about it in your school newspaper, do a presentation about it in class or in an assembly, get on social media and start tweeting about it using #LetGirlsLearn. Tell people what girls around the world are going through, and urge them to join you in speaking out against beliefs and practices that hurt women and girls.
You have no idea how powerful your voice can be if you choose to use it. And I cannot wait to hear what you have to say and see what you do to help girls around the world go to school and fulfill their dreams.
Follow along with our trip Instagram as we travel through Qatar and Jordan.
First Lady Michelle Obama