A Challenge to the World: Let Girls Learn

Today we join our colleagues around the world at the Oslo Summit on Education for Development because the President and First Lady see the issue of more than 62 million girls around the world out of school as a global crisis--one in which we must work together to solve in unprecedented ways.

Educating girls is essential to healthy and thriving communities. As you may have heard, girls who are educated marry later, they have fewer kids and lower HIV and infant mortality rates. They are more likely to immunize their own children. Educating girls also impacts their entire countries' economies. Studies show that each additional year a girl attends school can increase her earning power by 10 to 20 percent. And when more girls attend school, entire countries' per capita incomes increase. Sending girls to school can even impact our national security, because education is one of the best weapons we have against violent extremism.

The First Lady has said, "We would never accept a life of dependence and abuse for our own children. We would never allow their bodies to be violated or their potential to be squandered. So we have to ask ourselves, why would we accept this fate for any girl on this planet?"

And ultimately, that is why the President and First Lady launched Let Girls Learn back in March, a government initiative to help adolescent girls worldwide go to school, and, more importantly, stay in school. The focus of Let Girls Learn is on adolescent girls because we know that that critical moment when a girl is becoming a woman, so often, is when she is forced to drop out of school. That's when they first confront the cultural barriers that take them away from school -- things like early and forced marriage, genital mutilation and cutting, and the belief in so many communities that girls simply are just less worthy of an education than boys. In some countries, fewer than 10% of teenage girls complete secondary school. Hence our focus, even as we remain committed to the gains made around the world in primary education.

Among our efforts with Let Girls Learn, Peace Corps Volunteers are working at a grassroots level to support adolescent girls' education progress by launching projects all around the world, including mentoring programs, leadership camps, entrepreneurial initiatives, and many other community-driven projects. Peace Corps volunteers will be working side-by-side with local leaders, with families, and, more importantly, with the girls themselves to create programs that best meet the needs and aspirations in those communities. Working with the community is an important factor to support shifting attitudes and beliefs that could impede girls completing their secondary education. Working alongside community leaders will help support sustainable change to support girls reaching their full potential.

The U.S. is stepping up on this issue. And the First Lady knows that we are going to have a real impact for so many of these girls. But, there is no way that we, as one country, can solve the girls' education crisis alone. This is very much a global issue that calls for a global response.

That is why the First Lady has traveled to Japan and the UK this year to announce new partnerships between our countries to educate adolescent girls worldwide. The U.S. will continue to call on developed countries around the world to partner with us and invest in adolescent girls' education. And when they do, she will join them so that we can highlight this great work that is going on.
We join our colleagues in Oslo to underscore our strong and ongoing commitment to reach the millions of girls who are still being denied their right to education as we approach the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and the adoption of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

We will continue to engage with global leaders and ask one simple question: What can your country, your company, nonprofit, school or you yourself do to Let Girls Learn?

To learn more about how you can support Let Girls Learn, visit letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov.