Why the Trump Administration Needs to Let Girls Learn
Just two years after its unveiling, the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s signature girls’ education initiative is under threat.
The Let Girls Learn program—launched by Mrs. Obama and President Barack Obama at the White House in 2015—recruits government agencies, corporations, and nonprofit organizations to invest in adolescent girls’ education around the globe—from creating safe schools with proper sanitation facilities to training female teachers.
But under the Trump presidency, "Let girls learn" will no longer be the rallying cry for those committed to helping girls get to school and stay there. According to an internal Peace Corps memo, while certain aspects of the program may continue, employees have been instructed to stop using the Let Girls Learn brand and were informed that Let Girls Learn would no longer exist as a “standalone program.”
This isn’t a surprising move coming from President Trump. Given his relationship with the truth and even basic facts, education is likely high on the list of things he wants to disappear. What is surprising and disheartening is First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s silence on the end of Let Girls Learn, given her professed role as an “advocate for the education & empowerment of women & girls”.
Amid confusion about whether the program will continue and in what form, girls’ education champions are outraged that the administration could even consider ending Let Girls Learn. And rightly so. In case we’ve forgotten, educating girls is the single best investment we can make in our future. When girls go to school, they get married later. They lead healthier lives. They earn more money. They become leaders of their communities and their countries. They become leaders of the next generation.
Educated girls become empowered women who go to medical school, start businesses that employ hundreds of people, volunteer in their local communities, and run for elected office. If we want to solve problems like climate change, income inequality, and political instability around the world, we need these women. We need girls to go to school. According to researcher Judith Bruce, a leading gender expert at The Population Council, “Failure to invest in girls is planned poverty.”
The issue of girls’ education is personal for "Glamour." In 2014, we started The Girl Project to mobilize our audience to get involved and support girls around the world who want to go to school. The response has been inspiring, with readers around the world taking action on behalf of vulnerable girls everywhere.
Having partnered with Mrs. Obama on two dynamic global events on girls’ education,* "Glamour" can vouch for the Let Girls Learn platform as one of the best ways to elevate the issue to the highest levels of power and policy making. Xanthe Ackerman, a leading girls’ education advocate and cofounder of the Fuller Project for International Reporting, agrees: “If Let Girls Learn is shut down, let’s hope it is replaced with a program that shows U.S. leadership on this critical issue, especially in conflict-affected countries where girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school.”
The White House now says that despite the internal memo, the Let Girls Learn program will not change. Spokeswoman Kelly Love said on Tuesday morning, “We are committed to empowering women and girls around the world and are continuing to examine the best ways to do so.” But even if this commitment is sincere, undermining Let Girls Learn means cutting a growing movement off at the knees, even though girls’ education represents one of our best hopes for bipartisan collaboration. To date, financial pledges to Let Girls Learn have surpassed $1 billion, which supports programs in more than 50 countries, from empowerment workshops in Japan to the building of girls’ schools in Jordan. These programs are poised to make a real difference for girls everywhere.
What is the best way to empower women and girls? It’s simple. Let girls learn.
*In 2015 and 2016, "Glamour" partnered with Let Girls Learn to host a global conversation on girls’ education as part of our signature philanthropic initiative, The Girl Project. The event featured then First Lady Michelle Obama, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Charlize Theron, and Sophia Bush.
The Girl Project supports girls’ education by partnering with nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships, life-skills training, and mentorship to girls around the world. To learn more and get involved, visit www.TheGirlProject.com.*
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