First Lady Michelle Obama took to Broadway earlier in the week to host a concert for the spouses of global heads of state, which included performances from a number of female-centric shows, including “The Color Purple,” ”Waitress,” ”Wicked” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”
“More than 62 million girls around the world are counting on us to be their voice,” Obama said. “And I intend to continue speaking out on their behalf — not just for the rest of my time as first lady but for the rest of my life. And I hope that you all will join me.”
Held at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, the afternoon concert hosted by FLOTUS came as part of the Let Girls Learn initiative, created in an effort to encourage world leaders to offer educational opportunities to millions of girls around the world who do not regularly attend school.
Obama began the event with a speech directed at influential audience to urge them to help allow the Let Girls Learn initiative to continue by talking to their spouses or directly to the citizens of their respective countries.
“When people hear stories of girls who aren’t in school, they want to help. And as spouses of world leaders, so many of us here in this room have a platform that we can use to tell these stories and bring people together to take action for these girls. Because people will pick up the phone when we call,” Obama said.
Obama went on to discuss the influence that education had on her own life, saying it offered her the confidence she needed to pursue her ambitions, adding, “For me, education was power.”
She said Malala Yousafzai was her inspiration for starting the initiative, but reminded the audience that she had no official budget or the authority necessary to make laws. Any progress the initiative makes comes from the generosity of others. To date, this includes donations from 80 companies and organizations, as well as other nations like Mexico, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Emceed by Steven Colbert, the 90-minute event was held at the same time that world leaders were coming together in New York City to celebrate the opening of the 71st United Nations General Assembly. In all, over 50 spouses were in attendance at the event, as well as public school children and girl scouts.
Three young women, Noor Abu Ghazaleh of Jordan, Summyka Qadir of Pakistan, and Halima Robert of Malawi, also spoke at the concert, discussing the need for additional work in their home countries for adolescent girls. The women spoke of overcoming poverty, child marriage, and indifference in an effort to obtain an education, writes Leah Carroll for Billboard.
Speaker Halima Robert stated that despite being forced into an arranged marriage at age 15, she was able to leave the marriage and enter school with the help of USAID. She said her dream now is to become the nation’s education minister, writes Diana Pearl for People.
Songwriter Sara Bareilles, Jordan’s Queen Rania, and Gertrude Mutharika, the first lady of Malawi, also spoke as fellow champions of girls’ education.
While her time in the White House may be coming to an end, Obama said she is nowhere near finished with her work for the initiative, adding that 62 million girls around the world are depending on it and she plans to continue her work for the rest of her life.