When girls aren't in school around the world, it poses public-health problems, hurts a nation economically and makes the world less safe, first lady Michelle Obama writes.
Obama is launching the "Let Girls Learn" initiative, which is an international effort to make sure that girls around the world "in developing countries go to school and stay in school," she writes in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal
"When 62 million girls worldwide are not in school, that is not only a tragic waste of human potential, it is also a serious public-health challenge, a drag on national economies and global prosperity, and a threat to the security of countries around the world, including our own," Obama argues.
According to the first lady, there is solid research showing that "girls who attend secondary school marry and have children later, and they have lower maternal and infant-mortality rates and lower rates of HIV/AIDS."
When a girl is educated, it increases her earning power, which the whole nation benefits from, Obama writes.
In addition, "national-security experts have even noted that educating women can be a powerful tool to fight extremism, violence and instability."
While there is growing parity in education for younger girls, there is still a gender gap for teenage girls, largely because that is when cultural norms are imposed on girls such as female mutilation, marriage, costly school fees and household labor, she said.
There are also safety concerns that teenage girls could be "sexually assaulted while walking to and from school."
The Let Girls Learn initiative will work by training Peace Corp volunteers in such issues facing girls around the world, Obama said.
"Hundreds of these volunteers will then work full time to develop locally based education programs, from leadership camps to mentoring projects," Obama explains.
Obama is working with Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to begin implementing the program. She is traveling to Japan this week to launch the initiative.
While in Asia, the first lady says she will travel to Cambodia
, which is "one of the first countries in which Let Girls Learn will operate."
As for girls growing up in the United States, Obama says that she wants them to know "the challenges girls worldwide face in getting an education," and that "they still have a responsibility to show up every day and learn as much as they can."
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