This week, First Lady Michelle Obama is documenting her travels in support of Let Girls Learn here on HelloGiggles. Today, she describes her experiences in Spain. Read day one here, day two here, day three here, and day four here.
This morning, in Madrid, Spain, I gave a speech to about 700 young Spanish women. Like so many young women in the U.S., these young women are working hard in high school and college, and they have big dreams for their lives and careers.
And there’s a reason why I wanted to end my trip here in Spain speaking to these young women: I wanted to make it clear that every single one of us in countries like Spain and the U.S. has the power – and the obligation – to step up as a champion for the 62 million girls worldwide who are not in school.
In my speech today, I made three key points about how and why we need to help these girls:
First, the global girls’ education crisis isn’t just about resources. It’s not just about whether families can afford to send girls to school, or whether countries can afford to build those schools. It’s also about whether communities and nations truly value women and girls and think they’re worthy of an education in the first place. So if we want to solve this problem, we can’t just invest more money, and we can’t just change laws and policies – we also need to change attitudes and beliefs.
The same is true of the gender inequalities we face here at home in the U.S. For example, we absolutely need laws and policies to ensure that women are paid fairly for their work and that they have the paid leave they need to care for their families. But we also need to change our culture so that we no longer view equal pay and family leave as “women’s issues.” We know that when women aren’t paid equally for their work, that doesn’t just hurt them, it hurts their partners and their children because it affects their entire family’s income. We know that when people can’t take leave for the birth of a child, or to care for an aging parent, that hurts plenty of men too who want to be good fathers and good sons.
So whether it’s global girls’ education or issues here at home in the U.S., we need to focus both on investing more resources and changing culture. And that’s really what we’re trying to do with Let Girls Learn – we’re trying to give girls the support they need to attend school, and we’re trying to change how girls are viewed and valued in their societies.
The second main point I made today is that we live in an interconnected world, and when girls in countries across the globe can’t get an education, that can affect us at home in the U.S. We know that when women are silenced or oppressed and girls can’t go to school and get the education they need to provide for their families and contribute to their societies, that can affect their children’s health and the public health of their nations. It can affect their economies and even the security of their countries. And all of this can affect our country too.
Finally, and most important of all, I told the young women I spoke to in Spain that they have everything they need, right now, to help girls around the world get an education. And I want to make the same point to you, because the fact is that if you have access to social media, then you absolutely have a platform to tell the stories of the 62 million girls who are out of school and to raise awareness about the challenges they face.
If you go to 62MillionGirls.com, you’ll find all kinds of information on global girls’ education – and even better, you’ll learn how you can take action to help girls worldwide attend school. Then you can get on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat – whatever social media you like best – and start sharing these girls’ stories and educating people about the challenge they face.
These girls are counting on you, and you have the power, right now, to take action to transform their lives, so don’t wait another minute – get online and start supporting and speaking out for these girls today!
If you would like to learn more about the Let Girls Learn initiative and how you can get involved, visit the official website here.