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Michelle Obama delivers Let Girls Learn message to Africa, Europe

The first lady, daughters and others advocate for education, inclusion

Michelle Obama has always been an advocate of education, and in her latest initiative, Let Girls Learn, the first lady will head to three regions to spread the word about the importance of education for the 62 million girls across the globe who are not in school.

Joined by her daughters Sasha and Malia Obama, the first lady will venture to Margibi County, Liberia; Marrakech, Morocco; and Madrid for the Let Girls Learn initiative, which will raise awareness about education with a focus on women and girls.

“The first lady, by going to these three countries, is able to visit three important regions to the United States, is able to speak not just to governments, but to speak to people, and make clear what all the United States is doing around the world,” said Ben Rhodes, assistant to Obama and deputy national security adviser for strategic communications and speechwriting, on a conference call. “A key part of our leadership is what we can do to lift up the lives of young people, particularly of girls.”

On the first stop of the trip, which began Monday and ends Saturday, Obama and actress Freida Pinto visited a school in Unification Town, Liberia, to speak to young girls who are facing obstacles that are preventing them from getting an education. Pinto, who is also an advocate for the education of girls, moderated the discussion.

Obama also visited the Peace Corps training facility in Kakata, Liberia, speaking to young girls and women who are participating in a Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) camp.

“You have an important mission as women,” Obama said during her speech. “And to do that, well, you’ve got to have your education. So no matter what anybody tells you, I want you to keep fighting. Stay in school. Go to secondary school. Go to university if you can. And then, when you do all that, I want you to continue to be the leaders that you are and come back to your communities, and find other girls just like you who are working and striving — and they need your support.”

In Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world, nearly two-thirds of school-aged children do not attend class and, nationally, some girls as young as 15 cannot read a simple sentence, said Mary-Beth Goodman, the White House’s senior director for development and democracy, at a news conference Friday.

Upon leaving Liberia, Obama will travel to Morocco, where she will join actress Meryl Streep and Pinto for a conversation with young girls to discuss the quality of education and the challenges young girls and women face obtaining an education in the region. The discussion will be moderated by CNN’s Isha Sesay.

According to Goodman, many girls in Morocco live in rural areas. Distance makes it harder for students to attend to school, which ultimately leads to them not attending at all. Though 85 percent of girls are enrolled in primary school, it drops to a figure as strikingly low as 14 percent for high school.

For the final lap of the trip, Obama will travel to Madrid to deliver a speech to adolescent girls and women, which will highlight the goals and newest commitments of the Let Girls Learn initiative. Obama will also share stories of what she’s learned from girls on her previous stops to Liberia and Morocco.

Obama will be documenting her trip via social media pages and using the hashtags #LetGirlsLearn and #62MillionGirls. The first lady will also write daily trip entries on the website Hello Giggles.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.