The First Lady’s Travel Diary: Qatar and Jordan
By First Lady Michelle Obama
This post is part of a series authored by First Lady Michelle Obama to share her visit to Qatar and Jordan with middle school and high school students in the U.S.
This week, I will be traveling to Qatar and Jordan — countries located in a part of the world known as the “Middle East” (if you look on a map, it’s just to the east of Africa) — and I want young people like you all across America to join me on this journey!
On this trip, just like on previous international trips, I’ll be focusing on global girls’ education, an issue I care deeply about as a First Lady, a mother of two daughters, and a woman whose life was transformed by my education. You see, neither of my parents went to college, and they didn’t have much money. But they pushed me to work as hard as I could in school, and thanks to a lot of financial aid, I was able to go to college and law school and have all kinds of exciting jobs and opportunities.
Unfortunately, so many girls around the world never have the opportunities I had to get an education and fulfill their dreams. In fact, right now, 62 million girls across the globe aren’t going to school at all.
Many of them simply can’t afford it because, unlike here in the U.S., in some countries, parents actually have to pay for their kids to attend school. Sometimes the nearest school is miles away, and parents are afraid their daughters will be hurt or kidnapped while walking to or from school. Some schools don’t have adequate bathrooms for girls, so they have to stay home when they have their periods, and they may fall behind and even wind up dropping out.
Imagine what it would be like for you if you had to stop your own education. Imagine being told, at the age of 12 or 13, “That’s it, you’re done with school. You’ve gotten all the education you’re ever going to get — you won’t do any more science projects, or read any more books for English class, or have any more music, or art, or sports, or time with your friends in the lunchroom. And any dreams you have for what you want to be when you grow up — a teacher, an astronaut, a nurse, a writer — you have to give them up because you’ll never get the knowledge and skills you need to do those jobs.”
Pretty awful, right? And I don’t think any young person should ever have to give up their dreams like this. I think every child on this planet — boys and girls — should be able to get an education.
That’s why, last spring, President Obama and I launched Let Girls Learn, a new initiative to help adolescent girls across the globe go to school. Through Let Girls Learn, we’ll be helping communities around the world create girls’ leadership and mentorship projects, build school bathrooms for girls (because sometimes, schools don’t have adequate bathroom facilities for girls, which is one of the reasons why they can’t attend school), and more. We’ll also be funding girls’ education programs in countries that are torn apart by war or violence, and we’ll be working to address issues like poverty that make it hard for girls to get an education (because their families can’t afford to send them to school).
And this week, I’m heading to Qatar to speak at a global education conference attended by people from 120 countries around the world. I’ll be urging other countries to invest more in girls’ education and to challenge cultural beliefs and practices that make people think girls are less worthy of an education than boys.
In Jordan, I’ll be visiting a school and speaking to several hundred middle school-aged girls. Like the U.S., Jordan is committed to educating every child in their country — both boys and girls, including many children whose families have fled from Syria, a neighboring country that’s in the midst of a horrific civil war (millions of Syrians have had to leave their country because of the violence). Many of the girls at the school I’m visiting are Syrian refugees, and even though they’ve faced all kinds of challenges and hardships in their lives, they’re working hard in school and making their families proud. I’m excited to meet these girls — and I’m excited to share their stories with all of you.
I’ll also be visiting a military base in Qatar to spend time with some of our extraordinary men and women in uniform and tell them how thankful I am for their service. And I’ll be visiting an amazing historical and archeological site in Jordan called Petra — a beautifully preserved city that’s thousands of years old!
I want to share this journey with you, because I think it’s important for young people like you to be global citizens — to connect with other young people around the world and learn about their lives.
I also want you to be inspired and motivated by the girls I meet and to realize that if they can succeed in school even in the face of so many challenges, so can you.
That’s why I’ll be using social media to share my trip with you. I hope you’ll join me! Here’s how: