Female leaders gather to underline importance of educating the girl child

Michelle Obama advise an audience of hundreds of girls: read, write, go to school, beat the boys at Glamour magazine event.

 

Educating girls is the key to ending world problems, including poverty, first lady Michelle Obama told nearly a thousand teenage girls Tuesday.

Shrouded in pink spotlights, Obama joined actor and activist Charlize Theron, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard and Nurfahada, a 16-year-old girl ambassador for Plan International, an international development organisation, at the Apollo Theater to talk about the power of education and its lasting importance.

Obama gestured toward Nurfahada, who travelled to the US from the Philippines to talk about how girls in her country miss out on education because of systemic violence, poverty and teenage pregnancy.

Just imagine if [Nurfahada] couldn’t get an education,” Obama said. “What a waste that would be.”Other advice from Obama: read, write, go to school, don’t be late, do your homework, get the best grade, compete with the boys, beat the boys.

“I am worthy, and if I’m worthy, so are you,” she said.

Glamour magazine sponsored the event in collaboration with the White House’s Let Girls Learn initiative, and Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive moderated the panel. The commitment to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and empowerment for women and girls is a part of the UN sustainable development goals, announced last week.

On Saturday, Obama announced a new global education initiative, #62MillionGirls, in a video featuring Beyoncé and Hugh Jackman.

“The empowerment of women is so important,” Theron, who founded Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project and acts as the UN Messenger of Peace, said. “World poverty, world hunger, health issues – all of this stuff lies within the empowerment of young girls and women.”

Joking about Instagram food photos and childhood fashions, the women on stage shared stories about their own education and answered questions from the teens in the audience about the value of education and its effects on the world.

The theater lit up when Lieve posed what she said is a common line of thought among schoolgirls – that doing well in school will make a girl less attractive to boys.

“There is nothing sexier than a smart woman,” Theron said, enraged at the idea.

Obama encouraged all women and girls to raise their standards for the people in their lives, and push aside negative forces. No boy is cute or smart enough to stop a girl from pursuing her education, she said.

“If i had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the president of the United States today,” Obama said, high fiving Theron and miming a mic drop.

Another question came from a 13-year-old Girl Scout, who asked Gillard how the lack of education for girls affects “the people in this room.”

“I want you to grow up and live in a peaceful and prosperous world and the evidence is incredibly clear that the more time people spend in school the more likely they are to support peaceful ways of resolving conflict, the more likely they are to support democracy, the more likely they are to show tolerance of other religions,” Gillard said.

 

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