President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive to announce their ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The Obama administration is expanding efforts and directing a variety of federal agencies to work with other countries to help young girls worldwide attend and stay in school. Peace Corps volunteer Charlene Espinoza is at left. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Obama administration on March 3 announced plans to help girls across the world receive a secondary education with the Let Girls Learn initiative, a program intended to help nearly 60 million girls from developing countries go to school.
Let Girls Learn began last summer as a United States Agency for International Development effort which drew support from celebrities such as Shonda Rhimes, Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner, according to Newsweek. The Obama administration said it would build off those existing programs and create more partnerships with other government organizations.
“62 million girls around the world—half of whom are adolescent—are not in school,” the White House said in a statement. “These girls have diminished economic opportunities and are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence.”
In seeking a quality education, girls in countries across the world share a number of issues with their male counterparts. Challenges include their parents not being able to afford school uniforms, living in war zones or living in a village without adequate resources.
However, girls face extra hurdles, because in many countries men are expected to be the breadwinners, forcing girls to take a back seat in getting an education. According to the Brookings Institute, in the Central Africa Republic and Afghanistan there are 70 girls in school for every 100 boys. In Chad and Somalia there are 46 girls in school for every 100 boys.
“A good education can lift you from the most humble circumstances into a life you never could have imagined,” first lady Michelle Obama said at a press conference announcing the initiative. “I see myself in these girls. I see our daughters in these girls. I want to use my time and platform as first lady and beyond to make a real impact.”
According to the administration, the new initiative will join with the Peace Corps and work in communities to identify barriers facing adolescent girls from attending schools. With 7,000 volunteers in 60 developing countries, the Peace Corps has already engaged in grassroots efforts side by side with local families.
The Peace Corps will train approximately 650 more volunteers and promote education in 11 countries: Albania, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda, according to USA Today.
President Obama said he is proud of what the U.S. does to support girls around the world, but that it could do more.
“I’m proud to say that the U.S. already does a great deal to support girls’ education around the world,” Obama said at the press conference. “But what we do, we tend to do quietly. It doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”