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Michelle Obama Launches New Initiative to Empower Girls Through Education

October 11, 2018, 1:12 PM UTC

In conjunction with International Day of the Girl on Thursday, former first lady Michelle Obama unveiled a new project on NBC’s TODAY show: the Global Girls Alliance.

The program sits under the Obama Foundation umbrella and seeks to empower adolescent girls through access to education. It will support grassroots leaders who are better positioned to understand challenges specific to local communities and the strategies needed to overcome them and then connect these leaders with one another to facilitate learning.

The Global Girls Alliance will also aim to mobilize people in the U.S. and other parts of the world, encouraging them to support the program by donating to it via a GoFundMe fundraiser.

Addressing the hosts and a large crowd sitting outside at Rockefeller Center in New York City, Obama explained that 98 million adolescent girls are not in school. But, she said, “the stats show that when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country.” That’s why the alliance will support more than 1500 grassroots organizations and create a network amongst these organizations, providing “links to resources and training and technical support” and give them a way to come together on a regular basis.

“Young women are tired of being undervalued, they’re tired of being disregarded, they’re tired of their voices not being invested in and heard,” Obama explained. “And it’s not just around the world, it’s happening right here in this country. And if we’re going to change that we have to give them the tools and the skills through education to be able to lift those voices up.”

The program is the result of a 2013 conversation with Pakistani human rights advocate Malala Yousafzai, according to The Washington Post, who similarly focuses much of her work on getting girls access to education.

After the better part of 18 months out of the spotlight, this is the second ambitious program the former first lady has unveiled. In July, Obama launched a nonpartisan voting initiative called When We All Vote, which has gained the support of several high-profile figures including Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Janelle Monáe.

That’s not all. Obama’s highly-anticipated memoir Becoming will be released Nov. 13, followed by a multi-city book tour. And for those hoping that Obama may one day announce her own intentions to run for public office, the former first lady firmly quashed those dreams, saying, “I have never wanted to be a politician.”

“There are so many ways to make an impact—politics is just not my thing,” she said, adding to the girls in the audience, “Find your passion. It’s up to you to determine what your message is and how you want to use your voice.”