Michelle Obama And Laura Bush – An Unusual Partnership For Girls Education

First Lady Michelle Obama. Credit: The Root

First Lady Michelle Obama and former First Lady Laura Bush spoke recently at the Global Women’s Network. The discussion concerned the political aspects versus the reality of the issue that encompasses a disregard toward girls education.

The remarks were moderated by American University of Afghanistan valedictorian, Onaba Payab. The university officially enrolled students in 2006, with a generous grant from Mrs. Bush which launched the institution. In its first year, the university had only 53 students, which included only one girl. Today, more than “53 of the incoming class are women.”

Mrs. Obama has many reasons for championing the further education of American youth past high school and broadening the opportunity to girls of other countries. She stated that her own upbringing, in which her parents, who were both unable to obtain a college degree, were not equipped to provide the educational background that people felt was required in order to attend college. Having traveled across the globe she says that she’s met girls from worse situations that strive for an education.

“62 million of these girls aren’t in school at all… I see my daughters in these girls.  So it’s really hard to walk away from them.  As you know, they’re bright.  These girls are hungry to learn, and I know that if they can get an education just like I did, they can absolutely rise above their circumstances and fulfill their potential.”

Mrs. Obama also contended that

“…countries where more girls are in secondary schools… have lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates.  They have lower rates of HIV/AIDS.  They have better child nutrition. And when girls attend school, they earn higher salaries.  And collectively, that can boost their entire country’s economy.  So there’s a pretty dramatic ripple effect when we send girls to school.  It’s really one of the most impactful things that we can do for developing countries and for developed countries for that matter.” 

The remarks included stories about educated American women who mentor and work with girls abroad.

“There are young architects in Rwanda who are designing the ventilation system for our Partners in Health hospital so that people with TB don’t expose other people there.  Or they help set up the supply chain management and procurement to get drugs out to the clinics in some countries.”

On the political facet, it seems as though their political differences would impede their ability to efficiently communicate among themselves, but Mrs. Bush contended that it’s their willingness to cross party lines that makes democracy work. That they want students abroad to get an education and make sure people get health care. 

“And we also need to make sure that our girls are getting the education they need.”

Moreover, Mrs. Obama maintains that this is a global issue and many of the problems exist in our own community. There needs to be a communal effort to curtail the magnitude of the issue.

“…many of these solutions are really local.  They’re about working side by side to address the challenges that people are facing in their day-to-day lives, in their homes…their neighborhoods. Maybe that means something as simple as creating safe transportation to help girls get to school… Maybe it means helping families pay school fees.  Or maybe it’s about working with — hand in hand with local leaders, with the families, and, oftentimes, with the girls themselves to do something really important, and that is to change attitudes.”

The gist of the remarks is this: girls education matters, and people need to realize and accept how important and vital this is for themselves and their community.

Elijah Martinez is a MasterChef and Law and Order:SVU aficionado. Elijah is a full-time student and a polyglot, speaking and writing English, Spanish, and Latin. French and Korean are of interest, the former is a current study, while the latter is a deferred study.