BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Sixty-two million—that’s the staggering number of girls around the world who are not in school. This past Saturday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new campaign that is fighting to get more to school.
“I see myself in these girls,” said Obama at the Global Citizen Festival in New York. “I see my daughters in these girls. These girls are our girls, and I simply can’t walk away from them. So for me, this is truly a moral issue. It’s also an economic issue and a health issue.” According to CNN, Obama asked supporters of female education to post photos of themselves on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #62milliongirls and a message about what they learned in school. The photos will also be posted on 62milliongirls.com.
The tweets started rolling in from people all around the world, including numerous celebrities. “In school I learned to apply cultural and historical context. #62milliongirls don’t have that chance,” tweeted Kerry Washington. Emily Calandrelli tweeted, “In school I learned that girls who like Barbie lunchboxes could also like math,” while the first lady herself tweeted, “In school I learned how to stick up for myself.”
The social media campaign is part of the Let Girls Learn initiative that the president and first lady announced back in March. According to Yahoo News, the initiative focuses on community-led solutions to reduce barriers that prevent adolescent girls from completing their education. Girls face a large number of roadblocks to their education including forced early marriage and gender-based violence. They face more issues than their male peers, as it is still customary in many places to send the men of the house to school and work while the girls stay home to complete household duties.
The Global Citizen Festival is part of the Global Poverty Project, which aims to end extreme poverty by 2030. The festival took place in Central Park and included a star-studded lineup of musical guests and speakers. There were performances by No Doubt, Fun, Tiesto, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, Jay Z, Coldplay, Pearl Jam and Beyonce who got the crowd riled up with “Run the World (Girls).”
Celebrities also spoke out about the issue. Malala Yousafzai gave a powerful speech and President Barack Obama made an appearance with a taped message. The best part of the event is that concertgoers didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on tickets. Instead they donated or volunteered to the initiative, which entered them in a draw for one of 50,000 tickets.
The announcement of the #62milliongirls campaign at the Global Citizen Festival was intended to raise awareness of the lack of female education worldwide. The hashtag and the stories that accompany it will hopefully spread around the globe and inspire others to help in any way they can.