Michelle Obama Takes to Japan, Cambodia for Let Girls Learn

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Michelle Obama is visiting Japan and Cambodia this week to promote the education of girls and speak about the new initiative Let Girls Learn.

Let Girls Learn, introduced by President Obama earlier in March, is a worldwide initiative to help girls attend and stay in school. The Peace Corps will focus on girls’ education in 11 countries this year: Cambodia, Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda.

The First Lady is planning on stressing the importance of meeting community needs like providing uniforms and providing training on gender-specific issues, writes Emmarie Huetteman of the New York Times. The initiative was inspired by both the Obama girls and a 2013 meeting with Malala Yousafzi, a teenager from Pakistan who was shot for speaking out in support of education for girls.

In Tokyo and Kyoto, Michelle Obama and Akie Abe, Prime Minister Sinzo Abe’s wife, will discuss the partnership between the US and Japan and their goal of improving education for girls in less-privileged countries. The Peace Corps and Japan’s Overseas Cooperation Volunteers will work together help communities meet education needs. She will also be accompanied by Michelle Phan, a YouTube star, who will interview Obama based on questions gathered from social media.

Then the First Lady will appear in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She will meet with Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the Peace Corps director, and meet with students and volunteers to see what community programs are already in place. She will also make an appearance with Bun Rany, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s wife.

This is the first time a sitting first lady will visit Cambodia — Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Hillary Clinton both visited after their husbands’ terms, reports David Nakamura of the Washington Post.

She will not be ignoring Cambodia’s human rights violations, writes Darlene Superville of the Associated Press. The country’s child prostitution and human trafficking problems are two of the reasons that keep girls from attending school.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Obama said of the initiative:

[G]iven the magnitude of the challenge, US action alone will not suffice, nor will the efforts of just a few concerned countries. That is why this week in Japan, we will call for countries around the world to join us by making their own investments to help girls learn.

She also made sure to mention the importance of education for girls in the US, writes Paige Lavender of the Huffington Post, and hopes that the initiative will also help motivate American women to learn.

While the focus of this work is international, Let Girls Learn is also about inspiring young people here at home to commit to their education. Through Let Girls Learn, I want girls– and boys– here in the US to learn about the challenges girls world-wide face in getting an education. I want them to understand that even though their own school might be far from perfect– and my husband is working hard to change that– they still have a responsibility to show up every day and learn as much as they can. And i want them to connect with other young people from every background and nationality, particularly young women who set such a powerful example.

These girls walk miles each day to school, study for hours each night, and stand strong against those who say they are unworthy of an education. If they are prepared to make those sacrifices, the global community should be able to summon the resources to help them fulfill their promise and the promise of their families, communities, and countries.