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President Obama: "In Many Parts of the World, Girls Are Valued More for Their Bodies Than for Their Minds"

President Obama: "In Many Parts of the World, Girls Are Valued More for Their Bodies Than for Their Minds"

By Danica Lo

Yesterday in Washington, D.C., President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced the launch of a "community-focused girls' education initiative across the globe" as part of the Let Girls Learn program that taps into the talents of Peace Corps volunteers everywhere.

Here's how the new initiative will roll out:

  • The Peace Corp will be "supporting hundreds of new community projects to help girls go to school and stay in school" including mentoring programs, leadership camps, and other "entrepreneurial projects." All these projects will be "community-generated and community-led" by local leaders, families, and "even the girls themselves."
  • Active gender and girls' education training for Peace Corps volunteers. "Even volunteers who are focusing on other issues like health care or agriculture can also help support girls' education on the ground," the First Lady said.

The President also spoke extensively about the impact of increasing access to education for girls in need. Here are three salient points he made—ones that Glamour readers are all-too familiar with, if you've been following Glamour's work on The Girl Project over the last year.

President Obama on the value of "Letting Girls Learn": Now, I wish I could just say, because they’ve got the same potential as boys. It's pretty straightforward and we could just stop there. This really should not be complicated. Wherever they live, whoever they are, every girl on this planet has value. 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. That may be obvious to us, but we know it’s not obvious to everyone. Sixty-two million girls around the world who should be in school are not. That’s not by accident. It’s the direct result of barriers, large and small, that stand in the way of girls who want to learn.

President Obama on the reasons girls are kept out of school: In some cases, their families can’t afford the school fees. In some cases, the only local school doesn’t have a girls’ restroom. Maybe the risk of being hurt or kidnapped or killed by men who will do anything to stop girls from learning is just too great. Maybe girls aren’t in school because they’re expected to get married and become mothers while they’re still teens—or even earlier. Even today, in too many parts of the world, girls are valued more for their bodies than for their minds.That’s not just antiquated. It’s not just a bad strategy for any country that’s serious about growing their economy or promoting stability. It is just plain wrong. And we have to do more to stop it. 

President Obama on the benefits of making sure more girls have access to education around the world: The evidence is compelling. We know that when girls are educated, they’re more likely to delay marriage. Their future children, as a consequence, are more likely to be healthy and better nourished. Their future wages increase, which, in turn, strengthens the security of their family. And national growth gets a boost, as well. From a political standpoint, and a security standpoint, places where women and girls are treated as full and equal citizens tend to be more stable, tend to be more democratic. So this is not just a humanitarian issue. This is an economic issue and it is a security issue. And that’s why it has to be a foreign policy priority.

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