Michelle Obama tells girls that education is ‘the key to your future’

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Female leaders gather to underline importance of educating girls.

First lady Michelle Obama reacts to an ovation from the audience as she takes the stage for a panel discussion entitled “The Power of an Educated Girl” at the Apollo Theater, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow) NEW YORK — First lady Michelle Obama has some advice for teenage girls: Don’t shy from being the smartest kid in the class.The first lady appeared in front of a thousand screaming school girls in Harlem for a star-studded panel on girls’ education worldwide—and straight talk about dating.

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. On Tuesday morning, more than 1,000 girls (and a multitude of Secret Service members, NYPD officers, and police dogs) gathered at Harlem’s Apollo Theater to see Michelle Obama IRL. Beat the boys,” she told about 1,000 schoolgirls and young women Tuesday at an event aimed at publicizing her “Let Girls Learn” campaign to expand girls’ access to education in developing countries and encourage American girls to take advantage of their opportunities. 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. “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. Department of State and USAID have committed more than $22 million to the Safe from the Start initiative to strengthen prevention and response to gender-based violence at the onset of humanitarian emergencies.

On dealing with the frustrations, embarrassments and slights of high school: “I know being a teenager is hard,” but it’s temporary and not a template for the rest of life: “Half these people, you’re not going to know when you’re 60.” And on whether being brainy comes at a social cost: “There is no boy, at this age, that is cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting your education,” the water pump operator’s daughter-turned-Harvard-trained lawyer 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.” Mrs. 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.

In Ethiopia, where one in seven girls is married by the time she turns 15, USAID is facilitating “community conversations” with girls, their families, and their community members to discuss the impact of early and forced marriage and to explain the importance of providing resources for the mental and physical health of girls. Obama has made girls’ schooling one of her signature issues during her husband’s second term, particularly after the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in April 2014.

As the majority female audience settled in, a PowerPoint presentation featuring young girls around the world flashed by on the screen, accompanied by the pounding beats of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face.” Mistress of ceremonies and huge social media stan Sophia Bush took the stage to encourage the audience to live-tweet, Instagram and hashtag the show. The One Tree Hill actress alleged that “in high school I was a pretty big nerd” and linked her love of storytelling to her passion for English in grade school.

Then, because education rocks and so does breakout Oslo duo Nico & Vinz, the two pop heartthrobs performed their hit single “Am I Wrong,” which they dedicated to all the “beautiful, strong, independent women” in the packed venue. When a girl receives a quality education, it says: She is more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy, educated family, and improve the quality of life for herself, her family, and her community.

After insisting that women “run the show” and that “smart is sexy and beautiful and badass,” Bush ceded the mic to Glamour Editor-in-Chief and panel moderator Cindi Leive. In addition, girls’ attendance in secondary school is correlated with later marriage, later childbearing, lower maternal and infant mortality rates, lower birth rates, and lower rates of HIV/AIDS.

The accomplished guests included former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whom Leive described as “totally fierce,” 16-year-old student activist Nurfahada, and U.N. She maintained that “education is a social vaccine against HIV.” In a plea for go-girl empowerment, the actress bemoaned the fact that, even in the U.S., young women are often treated as second- or even third-class citizens: “these girls are being forgotten…we should be enraged by it.” She emphasized the need for gratitude and for self-affirmation, insisting that “there is nothing sexier than a smart woman…we have been told to live by a certain mold; it’s time to break it.” Despite light-hearted moments—explaining that she’s still a girl even with short hair, or advising her younger self to quit wearing shoulder pads—Theron wasn’t playing around when it came to gender inequality and female empowerment. The self-professed “farm girl from a small farm community” told the audience that “if you dream big, it can happen—so why not?” “You’re worth it” was a recurring theme throughout the conversation.

The first lady opened up the conversation by saying that without her education, she “wouldn’t be here.” She catalogued her experience traveling three hours a day to get to her public high school in Chicago, and the financial struggles her parents faced funding her college education. More Michelle-isms included the gem “you don’t want to be with a boy who’s too stupid to appreciate a smart young woman,” and her sage advice to “clean your house” of anyone who’s hanging around and dragging you down—whether it’s “your boo or your best friend.” But Obama truly brought down the house with some straight talk for any young girl who’s more preoccupied with getting her “Mrs.” than her Ph.

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