Jill Layton
November 08, 2015 12:41 pm

Michelle Obama is continuing to impress, even as her time in the White House comes to an end. Last week, the First Lady was in Qatar and gave the keynote address at the annual World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) event. WISE is one of the most significant annual events that focuses on global education. Each year, the three-day summit brings educators, thought leaders, and decision makers together to make significant improvements to worldwide education. Global education is “key to addressing the toughest challenges facing communities around the world today – poverty, conflict, inequality, unemployment, environmental sustainability and future challenges. But there is a widening gap between the education systems currently in place and those required to meet the needs of future generations.”

During her speech, the First Lady made a case for the White House’s Let Girls Learn program, and brought attention to the 62 million girls worldwide who aren’t in school. These girls aren’t learning how to read, how to do math or any of the basic skills they need to provide for themselves, their families and to contribute to their communities. She said that addressing gender inequality in education involves more than just investing money — it involves working together toward social change.

She drove her point home by stating, “The research is crystal clear:  girls who are educated marry later, have lower rates of infant mortality.  They’re more likely to immunize their children; less likely to contract malaria and HIV.” She said that education isn’t only important for health concerns, but also for financial reasons. “Girls who are educated also earn higher salaries — 15 to 25 percent for each additional year of secondary school. And studies have shown that sending more girls to school and into the workforce can boost an entire country’s GDP.”

The First Lady brought attention to Qatar’s Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser’s work with education in her country. “The fact that two-thirds of university students in Qatar and nearly 40 percent of the Qatari workforce are women is no accident,” she said. “It is due in large part to her leadership.”

Strong female leadership is essential to making the necessary social changes to ensure that girls all over the world are getting the education they need and deserve to be active, contributing members to their communities.

Here’s the First Lady’s speech in its entirety:

Related reading:

What we learned from Michelle Obama’s new op-ed about girls’ education

(Featured image via Twitter)

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