LONDON—Schoolgirls in east London greeted U.S. first lady Michelle Obama with song, interpretive dance and squeals of joy Tuesday as she traveled to the British capital to promote education for girls.
Girls in maroon uniforms waved American flags to warmly welcome Obama at the Mulberry School for Girls to promote the “Let Girls Learn” initiative, launched in March. Visibly moved, she told the girls — many of whom come from working-class backgrounds — that she understood the struggles they faced and that she wanted them to succeed.
“The world needs more girls like you growing up to lead our parliaments and our board rooms and our courtrooms and our universities,” she said. “We need you.”
Mrs. Obama’s visit highlights that education for girls is but a distant dream in much of the world. She cited unaffordable school fees, early and forced marriages and pregnancies, and also societal beliefs that girls are simply less worthy as just some of the factors holding girls back.
Mrs. Obama has urged world leaders to “throw the school gates open to girls everywhere,” arguing that it is a heartbreaking injustice to have 62 million girls out of school. She appealed for action, declaring that it is a security, economic and health issue.
“Every time I meet these girls on my travels abroad, I am blown away by their passion, intelligence and hunger to learn — and I cannot help but see my daughters in them,” Mrs. Obama wrote in an op-ed in the Financial Times. “Like my own girls, each of these young women has the spark of something extraordinary inside. The only difference is that my girls have had the opportunity to develop their promise.”
The U.S. and Britain announced plans to expand their commitment to the issue, partnering to support girls’ education in countries affected by crisis such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
About $200 million will be devoted to the efforts, which also include supporting teacher training, girls’ leadership camps and other community based programs.
“Every girl, no matter where she lives, deserves the opportunity to develop the promise inside of her,” Mrs. Obama wrote.
Mrs. Obama, her two daughters and her mother had tea with Prince Harry as part of the visit. She will also meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife, Samantha.