Day three: Speaking about girls' education with Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep in Morocco
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 Morocco — what young women there are doing to become leaders in their community and get an education. Read day one here and day two here.
I started my day in Morocco, which, in addition to being one of America’s oldest allies, is also an important partner in our work through Let Girls Learn.
Thanks to the efforts of Morocco’s current king, King Mohammed VI, and his administration, education is a top priority in Morocco, and 98 percent of children here attend elementary school. Unfortunately, however, for many girls in rural parts of Morocco, that’s often where their education ends. For some of these girls, the nearest middle school is hours from home, which is why only 14 percent of girls in rural Morocco make it to high school. Many wind up staying home to help with household labor and often get married at a young age and start having children of their own.
Today, I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of young women from across Morocco, many of whom have overcome all kinds of obstacles to attend school. I was joined by a few special guests who share my passion for girls’ education: the actresses and education advocates Freida Pinto and Meryl Streep and CNN correspondent Isha Sesay — who’s also a girls’ education champion — who moderated our discussion.
Many of these girls were the first in their families to graduate from high school, and many are now enrolled in universities and have big dreams for their futures. They want to be doctors, entrepreneurs, engineers. One wants to be a politician fighting for the rights of young women and working to combat climate change. Another dreams of opening an auto shop focused on helping women learn about cars so they can become more independent.
One of the girls talked about the challenges she faced studying science and math — how boys in her class questioned whether a girl really belonged — but she wound up being at the top of her class, and she plans to attend college and help other girls in Morocco and around the world fulfill their potential too.
Another young woman told us that she grew up in a small village, and her family was hesitant to let her continue her education past elementary school because there was no middle school nearby and she would have to travel to a school in another village each day. But she was adamant about attending school, and eventually her family relented. She went on to graduate from high school with honors, and she’s about to graduate from college. She’s learning Japanese and dreams of becoming a linguist.
Another young woman talked about how she grew up in a tough neighborhood that was torn apart by violence and drugs. Her father died when she was four, and her mother sent her to live with her grandmother. But she threw herself into her studies, became the first member of her family to pass Morocco’s national exam, and she just finished her first year of college. “My education is a miracle,” she said. And she’s determined to help other girls have the same opportunities she’s had, so she spends hours volunteering, including helping to run girls’ leadership camps with the Peace Corps.
So clearly, these girls are amazing. And today, I was proud to announce that the U.S. government will be making major new investments to help them – and girls like them across Morocco – get the education they need and deserve.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which is our global anti-poverty agency, will be working closely with the government of Morocco to invest about $100 million to transform Morocco’s middle and high school education system, helping students across the country – including about 50,000 adolescent girls – get the skills they need to have the careers they dream of. MCC is also launching a new $4.6 million Education for Employability Partnership Fund to support programs that will address the needs of girls – things like internships and after school clubs to get girls excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or new classroom technology specifically designed with girls in mind.
In addition, our international development agency, USAID, will be supporting school dormitories (which are called “Dar Talibas”) for girls from rural areas so they can continue their education beyond elementary school, even when middle schools are far from their homes. And the Peace Corps will be announcing Morocco as one of their next Let Girls Learn target countries, and volunteers will be organizing girls’ education and empowerment projects nationwide.
Having seen how smart, passionate and ambitious these girls are, I’m certain that we’re making an excellent investment. I know these girls are going to do great things with their lives, and I cannot wait to see everything they achieve in the years ahead.
If you follow this blog over the course of this week, you’ll get a window into these girls’ lives – you’ll learn about their challenges, their successes, their hopes and dreams – and you’ll find out what you can do to help them get the education they need and deserve. So I hope you’ll join me. I’ll be posting daily here on HelloGiggles as well as on Twitter (@FLOTUS), Instagram (@MichelleObama), and Snapchat (MichelleObama). And you can go to 62MillionGirls.com to start learning more about global girls’ education today.