United States First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, yesterday on the first leg of a three-nation tour with stops in Morocco and Spain. Accompanying Mrs Obama are her daughters, Malia and Sasha; her mother, Marian Robinson; as well as actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto.
Their visit is connected to the United States government’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, a project introduced in 2015 to promote girl child education and highlight the effects of gender inequality on adolescent girls and young women around the world. It also strives to demonstrate to young girls that they can achieve their full potential irrespective of their background or circumstances.
Mrs. Obama’s interest in girl child advocacy was intensified in April 2014 after the world was shocked by the brazen abduction of over 200 school girls from their school dormitories in the town of Chibok, in northeastern Nigeria by the jihadist group Boko Haram. Mrs. Obama spearheaded international campaign efforts on social media demanding for their immediate release.
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While in Liberia, Mrs. Obama will be joined by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She is scheduled to visit a school in Unification Town in the Margibi region for a parley with adolescent school girls who have had difficulties accessing formal education. Actress Freida Pinto will serve as a moderator for this discussion.
The US First Lady is also scheduled to meet with young women and girls in a Peace Corps training centre at Kakata, also in the Margibi region. The centre has a goal of providing necessary leadership skills to young girls, building their self-confidence, and improving their access to quality education through its Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp. Funding for the centre is provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
When they arrive in Marrakesh, Morocco, on June 28, Mrs. Obama and her fellow travelers will continue holding discussions about the increasing number of adolescent girls currently out of school all over the world. The discussion panel in Morocco will feature actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto with CNN’s Isha Sesay as moderator. On June 30, the First Lady and her fellow travelers will arrive at their last stop, Madrid, Spain, where Mrs. Obama is scheduled to meet with Her Majesty Queen Letizia and to give a speech on Let Girls Learn to young women and girls.
Worldwide, an estimated 62 million girls are out of school. In rural areas of the developing world, only a limited number of adolescent girls get to complete higher education. The challenges they face include little or no support for her education from her family and the society, a general lack of self-belief in their own abilities, and early or forced marriages.