First Lady Michelle Obama delivered an inspiring speech at Fortune’s ’50 Most Powerful Women’ Summit, in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. The First Lady asked a group of the world’s top business leaders to lend their support to educate girls around the world.
Mrs. Obama noted that about 62 million girls do not attend school and that, though some progress has been made in primary education, girls still fall behind with respect to secondary education, saying that fewer than 10 percent of girls complete high school.
Michelle Obama expressed her concerns regarding what she calls a “girls’ education crisis” across the globe in her speech at Fortune’s ’50 Most Powerful Women’ Summit.
“It’s our responsibility to address this crisis as women, business leaders, and citizens of this country and world. I can’t help but see myself in these girls. I can’t help but see my daughters in these girls.”
Mrs. Obama addressed a room full of some of the world’s most powerful business leaders. She explained to the business community how she is working an ongoing initiative called Let Girls Learn – her attempt to help adolescent girls attend and stay in school.
The Daily Princetonian noted that the First Lady and President Barack Obama launched the Let Girls Learn initiative last spring to support girls’ education in conflict zones and that they collaborated with the Peace Corps. She added that she is gearing up to launch a $25 million Let Girls Learn Challenge Fund.
Mrs. Obama says the best solutions are often local – each community faces different challenges.
“The government doesn’t have all the answers or resources to solve this problem, not even close. We desperately need your help in this effort.”
Fortune cites that Michelle Obama and the U.S. government’s Let Girls Learn initiative is working with the Peace Corps to train its 7,000 volunteers in educating girls through mentorship programs, building school libraries, and leadership camps.
According to Mrs. Obama, sometimes the problem comes down to a lack of resources. However, the First Lady adds that attitudes play an important role in resolving the education crisis, as well. Mrs. Obama noted that, rather than pursue an education, girls are subject to the belief that they should get married and have children or stay at home and do household chores and work.
Mrs. Michelle Obama pointed out that, for each extra year of secondary school, educated young women can increase their income as much as 18 percent. She added that, with more education, girls are likely to delay childbearing, have lower infant mortality rates, and are less likely to contract HIV.
The First Lady ended her speech by telling the story of a girl she met in Cambodia. Mrs. Obama said the girl spoke about her life eloquently and with self-confidence.
Though the young girl had been through many hardships, she explained how she knew that she needed to overcome each one of them.
“I’ve never thought they are the barrier to stop me. I’ve never thought of giving up.”
Michelle Obama reminded the prestigious group of some of the world’s top business leaders that her time as the U.S. First Lady is ending in 15 months.
However, Mrs. Obama made it clear that her goal to educate women around the world will carry on.
“I plan to continue this work for the rest of my life.”
The First Lady drew attention to the large group of powerful women in attendance at Fortune’s summit. Women are running companies, changing people’s lives, and shattering every glass ceiling. Michelle Obama noted that the women in the room, and other women around the world, were a testament to the belief that a woman’s place is wherever she wants it to be.
[Featured image via Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Fortune/Time Inc.]