Michelle Obama is calling on young women in the U.S. to take their education a little more seriously. Kids in the United States are often depicted viewing school as an unbearable daily chore, but education is not a basic right everywhere in the world.
In her open letter to Seventeen magazine, the first lady asked readers to consider how hard it is for some women to even access an elementary-school level education. Whether for financial reasons, gender inequality or even religious beliefs, girls all over the globe are actively kept out of class.
“Often, even when girls do have the chance to attend school, they do so at great risk,” Michelle wrote, stressing that some men will do everything they can to keep young women from going to school and discouraging others with hopes of getting an education.
She even pointed to two prominent example of how violent some people will get when girls want to learn. “We saw this in Pakistan when Taliban terrorists boarded a school bus and shot a 15 year-old girl named Malala Yousafzai because she had spoken out for girls’ education,” she said before mentioning the horrific event that spawned the #BringBackOurGirls movement. “We saw it in Nigeria when men from a terrorist organization called Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.”
Michelle noted that only about 62 million girls around the world are not in school. The ones that are face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to learn. She urged girls in the United States to think about that when they devalue their own education.
“Knowing the heartbreaking challenges so many girls in the world are facing, think about all the girls you know who don’t take their education seriously,” she wrote. “To any girl – or any young person – who might be thinking this way, I have a simple message: you can do better – for yourself, your family and your country.”
Michelle added, “Maybe that means talking to a teacher or a counselor to get some help, or committing yourself to concrete goals each week, like showing up on time for class and getting your homework done each night.”
EdWeek.org reports that 73 percent of senior girls graduated high school in 2007. According to The Washington Post that number was 72 in 2003. There was an improvement, but not much. The first lady highlighted how having a basic education is essential to becoming a self-sufficient adult.
“No matter what you want to do with your life, I guarantee that you will need a high school diploma and some higher education, like a two-year or four-year college degree or a professional certificate,” she stated. In closing, Michelle also tasked young women serious about getting an education to make sure that they’re reaching back to help others that can’t.
“As you get yourself on track for higher education, I hope you’ll work to give girls around the world opportunities to attend school too,” she challenged. “Get involved with an organization that focuses on girls’ education; form a club at your school to raise money and awareness; use social media to educate everyone you know about this issue.”