On February 2, 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the American Magazine Media Conference. Pointing to More Magazines’ coverage of the “Let Girls Learn” initiative, the First Lady emphasized the critical role of magazines in driving people to action by sharing the stories of girls and the barriers they face around the world in accessing educational opportunities.
First Lady Obama underscored the devastating consequences faced by 62 million girls who are not in school today noting, “Girls who aren’t educated have higher rates of HIV. They have higher rates of infant mortality. They have lower wages. This impacts not just the individual girls, but their families, their communities, and an entire nation.”
The First Lady also made the case for why American girls – and all Americans – should be concerned about girls educational opportunities worldwide pointing out the economic impacts of investing in girls’ education. “Girls who are educated, they earn more money. They raise healthier families. Some studies show that for every extra year of secondary education that a girl gets, that increases her earning potential by as much as 15 percent. So this isn’t just good for this country. We have more educated, empowered people in the world buying products and producing goods, and spending resources and traveling and learning -- that's going to impact our economy, as well.”
Drawing on her motivation for engaging young girls in the United States on this issue, the First Lady made clear her goal is to inspire and educate young girls on the education disparity noting, how easily many American girls take education for granted because of its easy accessibility. “We want to make sure that they're empowered to take advantage of the resources that they have, and that they get their education and develop the skills so that they can be part of making change for these 62 million girls. This is about all of our lives,” she said.
First Lady Michelle Obama, left, Lena Dunham, center, and Julianne Moore greet members of the audience during a panel entitled "Media with Purpose" at the American Magazine Media 360 Conference in New York, on February 2, 2016. [AP Photo]
Reflecting on her March 2015 visit to Cambodia, the First Lady recalled encouraging the girls she met with to push past the doubters and to find supportive people in their lives along their journeys to success. She recalled encouraging the girls there to reach back and invest in their communities, stating “…if we do that, we will not lose the potential of all these girls who go uneducated. We’ve got too many problems in the world to let half of our population go without the skills and development they need to contribute.”
The First Lady discussed the important work being accomplished through “Let Girls Learn” and her intention to continue to focus on girls’ education even beyond the Obama Administration. She pointed out a fund is being developed with the Peace Corps, and the more than $1 million that has been raised for projects run by Peace Corps volunteers on the ground in communities around the world.
Encouraging people to get involved in the effort to expand access to education for girls, the First Lady shared her concern for the enormous missed potential our generation faces by not capitalizing on investing in girl’s education. Solving this problem is going to be a long term effort, to which the First Lady urged, “…we’re going to need to keep pushing hard on this issue to change cultural norms around the world to demand that countries invest in their girls as much as they invest in their boys.”
For more information:
- Read the First Lady’s full remarks along with Lena Dunham and Julianne Moore in the "Media with Purpose" Discussion at American Magazine Media Conference.
- Find out how we’re working to open the doors of education for girls around the world through Let Girls Learn.
- Follow the First Lady @FLOTUS on Twitter and join the online discussion on this issue by using #62MillionGirls.