The office of the United States First Lady Michelle Obama has announced an investment of US$27 million into rural girls and women’s education in Liberia.
In a hasty briefing on June 27 in Kakata, Margibi County, during Mrs. Obama’s seven hour long visit to Liberia, (11:50am-7:30pm) her aides told journalists that the amount will be provided by USAID to the Peace Corps Volunteers initiating educational programs for girls under the umbrella of “Girls Leading Our World” (GLOW).
The amount is meant to provide quality education for rural girls and women in post-Ebola Liberia and to help fight gender based violence.
It will also address training opportunities for teachers and curriculum development that will create the conditions for girls to have the needed quality education.
While in Kakata, Mrs. Obama interacted with the GLOW girls and women who acquainted her with what they were learning in their training under the supervision of Peace Corps Volunteers.
In her opening statement to the girls, the First Lady said she felt the constraints women and girls “are facing around the world.”
“I always like to travel with my two daughters and my mother to see and know the world. About 62 million girls across the world are not in school, and how can we sit by in the United States with all the resources and not attend to the educational needs of the suffering women and girls?
We have to change the culture that girls should not go to school,” Mrs. Obama insisted.
She urged the girls to pursue secondary and university education, noting, “Keep going to school and don’t drop.”
During the interactive forum with the girls, Mrs. Obama, very simply attired in a colorful, sleeveless dress, and putting the students at ease said, “Don’t be shy to talk about what you learn here. Speak to us and just feel that you can be like me or we are just the same, she urged. Don’t think that I am the First Lady and be shy.”
She also commended the Peace Corps for making the decision to return to Liberia after Ebola to work with girls and women in fostering their education.
The girls with supervision of their Peace Corps teachers were asked to explain the lessons they have learnt during their educational program.
Rising one by one to explain, they spoke of learning about leadership, role models, self-confidence, health science and home economics.
Rachel Jallah, 13, expressed her excitement about the First Lady sitting with them in the same place and interacting.
Jallah said the presence of Mrs. Obama and her family gave her the inspiration to learn because it would also provide her the opportunity to be in a respectable position in the future.
At the Caul Field Public School in Unification Town (Smell-No-Taste) where the First Lady and her family met another group of girls, she expressed her excitement and urged them to stay in school and to not refrain from learning.
During an interactive forum with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in attendance, the girls explained the problems confronting their progress in education.
Among the challenges were lack of libraries and laboratory facilities, textbooks and support to attend school.
However, they said they had the confidence that they could go through despite the hardships because other women had endured similar situations and were able to move ahead in life.
The girls who are under the “Let Girls Learn” program referenced President Sirleaf as a woman who endured suffering and has succeeded today, an example that they said convinces them that they can overcome the difficult conditions facing them.
Mrs. Obama and delegation departed Liberia the same evening and are expected to touch down in Morocco for the second leg of their three-nation trip.