The Obama Administration announced yesterday expanded efforts to help adolescent girls worldwide attend and complete school through an initiative called Let Girls Learn.
According to a White House press release, the new effort will build on investments the US already has made in global primary school education and expand them to help adolescent girls complete their education. First Lady Michelle Obama is teaming up with the Peace Corps to carry out the initiative, who will recruit and train about 650 additional volunteers to focus specifically on adolescent girls’ access to education. The volunteers will be charged with starting conversations in the communities to figure out what’s keeping girls from school, then working with leaders, parents and the girls themselves to come up with ways to remove those barriers.
“Wherever they live, whoever they are, every girl on this planet has value,” President Obama said when he announced the initiative. “Every girl on this planet deserves to be treated with dignity and equality. And that includes the chance to develop her mind and her talents, and to live a life of her own choosing, to chart her own destiny.”
When girls receive an education, they are more likely to improve their own quality of life as well as the standard of living in their communities. Yet 62 million girls around the world aren’t in school, and attacks on girls who are have been on the rise. These facts persist in a global environment where girls’ education has come to the forefront as a human rights issue and various nations are taking action to get girls into the classroom.
Last year, the world watched as Nigerians took action for over 200 girls who were kidnapped from a school in Chibok by military insurgency group Boko Haram – a group which opposes girls’ education. In Afghanistan, USAID has launched programs to support girls’ education. Nations like Malawi are taking action against child marriage, and advocates like Kakenya Ntaiya are speaking out against the practice that so often disrupts girls’ futures.
In the most recent issue of Ms. magazine, Ntaiya tells her story of escaping child marriage and, ultimately, opening a school for over 150 girls in Enoosaen. “I wanted to see a different future for them,” she said in the piece, “[and] school was the place I could achieve that.” In the same issue, the magazine profiles the film Difret, which is backed by Angelina Jolie and tells the true story of an Ethiopian girl who was kidnapped on her way home from the fifth grade to be forced into child marriage.
Girls Learn International (GLI), a Feminist Majority Foundation program, educates and energizes US students around the global movement for girls’ access to education. GLI pairs its middle and high school chapters in the US with partner schools in 11 countries where girls still lag behind boys in access to education and are far less likely than boys to stay in school past the primary grades. By opening communication between students and managing exchange projects, GLI fosters cultural understanding and fuels activism for girls’ human rights around the world.
Media Resources: The White House 3/3/15; NPR 3/3/15; Girls Learn International 3/4/15; Feminist Newswire 2/25/15, 11/11/14, 5/2/14; Ms. magazine Winter 2015 issue; Ms. blog 3/4/15