Michelle Obama’s 6 day tour of North Africa (specifically Morocco and Liberia) last month marked the launch of a $100 million injection of funds to boost girls’ education.
America’s First Lady touched down in Marrakech, Morocco, with her two daughters (Sasha and Malia) and actress Meryl Streep in a bid to boost girls’ education in the region. Their visit also marked the release of $100 million, pledged by the USA’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, which will be used to boost the education of around 100,000 students from the region.
Nearly one third of Morocco’s 34 million population is illiterate; one of the highest levels in North Africa. However, the illiteracy rate is higher amongst the country’s women; which reaches 41%.
Half of the funds from the USA’s MCC will be directed to improving the education of adolescent girls; a demographic identified by Michelle Obama – and her new initiative Let Girls Learn – as one of the most educationally deprived in the region. Literacy amongst girls aged 15 and over in Morocco in 2015 was 58.2%, compared to 78.6% of boys. According to Let Girls Learn, more than 62 million girls worldwide are not in school, and more than half of these girls are teenagers.
“It is critical to the health of our nations to invest in girls’ education,” she said as she addressed an audience of local schoolgirls.
“Those 62 million girls who are not being educated around the world impact my life in Washington, D.C. Because if we aren’t empowering and providing the skills and the resources to half of our population, then we’re not realizing our full potential as a society, as mankind,” she continued. “So, we have to change those notions that girls are only valuable for their reproductive capacity, or their ability to do manual labour. We need every one of our citizens, boys and girls, to be educated and involved and empowered.”
“I think all parents want to see their daughters succeed. They want to see their sons succeed. They want to see opportunity for their children and so it’s a matter of helping them see things differently – that the barriers that they may have grown up with can be worked around, that there are other avenues. And so what we’re doing is working with these young women and working with their parents to help them see what opportunities are,” said Steven Driehause, Director of the U.S. Peace Corps Mission in Morocco who are helping with Michelle Obama’s campaign.
During her trip, the First Lady also visited Liberia, which will receive approximately $27 million to invest in education. In addition to her work through the Let Girls Learn movement (which was established in 2015), Michelle Obama has also encouraged the World Bank to pledge $2.5 billion to programmes that support the education of adolescent girls over the next 5 years.
Michelle Obama’s focus on girls’ education was catalysed after 276 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014, when she began the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign.
Find out more about the Let Girls Learn campaign by visiting the website.