Michelle Obama Launches 'Let Girls Learn' Project to Get Every Daughter an Education

It's pretty much a given that in the United States, most -- if not all -- girls are going to go to school. The sad truth, though, is that that makes us lucky, because in a lot of developing countries, it's still uncommon for girls to finish all their schooling. But in an effort to fight this, today the White House announced a global initiative called Let Girls Learn that will help girls finish school and pursue their goals beyond that.


It's hard even in the U.S. to raise girls -- the statistic that women make 78 cents to every dollar men make might be overused, but it's still true. So why are President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama focused on girls outside of the United States?

Can you even imagine how hard it would be to raise daughters in a place where they probably won't even finish school, let alone have a job that pays?

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In many of these places is that girls are being pulled out of school -- often before they're even 15 -- and then being set up into arranged marriages by their parents. Even when they're not getting married, sometimes the cost of school is just too high for their families to cover. Or the schools don't have girls' bathrooms. Or there are deliberate barriers set in place to keep them out, or the threat of people attacking them on the way to school is just too much to risk.

But school is SO important ... not only so that the girls can start to compete with men professionally and economically, but also because staying in school reduces the risk of emotional and physical harm coming to them down the road.

Here are the facts:

  1. Sixty-two million girls around the world are not in school.
  2. Globally, less than one-third of people in STEM fields are women.
  3. Girls not in school are less likely to succeed economically, and they're more at risk for HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence.
  4. Each additional year of school raises girls' future earning power by 18 percent.
  5. In the developing world, 1 in seven girls are married before they're 15, and one-third are married before they're 18.
  6. Girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children compared to girls who have little or no education.
  7. Almost 60 percent fewer girls would get pregnant before age 17 in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they all had secondary education.
  8. Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.

Let Girls Learn is spearheaded by Michelle Obama, who has been a long-time advocate for girls' rights in the U.S. and around the globe.

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To re-ignite that spark, Let Girls Learn will work to unite and build programs already in place, especially the efforts of the Peace Corps and USAID. It will also challenge other organizations and governments around the world to commit more resources to helping adolescent girls across the globe.

Finally, right? Girls' rights started getting more attention a couple years ago with Malala Yousafzai, but we've been waiting for a more public and driven campaign to fix this problem.

President Obama probably said it best at the Let Girls Learn launch, so we'll let him take over:

I want to make sure that no girl out there is denied her chance to be a strong, capable woman with the resources that she needs to succeed -- that no girl is prevented from making her unique contributions to the world.  Every child is precious.  Every girl is precious.  Every girl deserves an education.

What do you think girls around the world need most?


Image via Riccardo Mayer/shutterstock

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