In an event hosted by Glamour magazine, First Lady Michelle Obama, Glamour Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive, and actress Yara Shahidi lead a global conversation with girls from Washington, D.C., Jordan, Peru, Tanzania, and the United Kingdom to talk about their own experiences, education, challenges, and opportunities in celebration of the International Day of the Girl, which is a day dedicated to empowering girls around the world.
“Education is a very personal thing for me. I wouldn’t be here, not just in this chair, but in the life that I have, if it weren’t for my education,” The First Lady said, addressing the group. “I know that when you hear the phrase ‘knowledge is power,’ it’s true. Through my education, I didn’t just develop skills, I didn’t just develop the ability to learn, but I developed confidence. It was clear to me that if I could get through Princeton at the top of my class, I could do anything in the world.”
During the conversation, young ladies from outside of the United States brought up cultural differences that shed light on disheartening situations for young women in their countries. For example, in Tanzania, girls spoke about female genital mutilation, early marriage and safety issues as they travel to and from school. The young ladies encouraged their American counterparts to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them because not everyone has the same basic luxuries. The young girls in London, spoke about how self-esteem issues can adversely affect education.
As we know, the state of female education in the Middle East has been a sense of contention and debate for many. Many women are not allowed to be educated in some of these countries, for fear of alienation and/or even death. It is in that vein, that the young actress Yara Shahidi chimed in and spoke about her own personal family experiences, sharing a story of how her great-aunt from Iran, left the Middle East, finished college in London and returned to her hometown to create a midwife program, giving women access to better reproductive health.
“Education is a luxury that you should be working towards, because it’s a really cool thing,” said Michelle Obama. “Do not squander this. Make this your reality. There is nothing more important that you can do for yourself than getting your education. Take it from me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for mine.”
To impress upon all nations that the education of young girls and women is extremely important, the event ended with a challenge for everyone to take action and help girls through a month long campaign that starts today dedicated to empowering girls through The Girl Project. #WhenGirlsGraduate is a group fundraising campaign on Crowdrise to rally support for the cause. Or, individuals can also make a one-time financial donation to help by texting GRADS to 20222 any time between October 11 and November 14 to donate $5 to girls’ education.
Watch a snippet of the conversation between Michelle Obama, Yara Shahidi, and girls all around the world right here: