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First lady boosts 'Let Girls Learn' initiative

By Agencies in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-20 07:49

Michelle Obama spoke on Thursday of a "crisis" gripping the world as she launched an initiative to help get girls into education on the second day of her trip to Japan.

The US first lady told an audience of women in Tokyo that 62 million girls around the world were being denied the right to go to school, which is a "profound waste of human potential".

"It is truly a crisis," said Obama.

"We often focus on the economic barriers girls face - school fees or uniforms, or how they live miles from the nearest school and have no safe transportation, or how the school in their community doesn't have bathroom facilities for girls.

"But we all know that the problem here isn't just about infrastructure and resources. It's also about attitudes and beliefs. It's about whether fathers - and mothers - think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons."

Obama, who arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday without her husband, US President Barack Obama, said Japan and the US were both big donors in the "Let Girls Learn" initiative, which aims to help young women in developing countries.

She and her Japanese counterpart Akie Abe announced plans on Thursday to deepen cooperation in helping girls in developing nations finish their educations, vowing to help them attain goals that many in wealthy countries take for granted.

Obama, who in her online travel journal described her trip as a "part of a journey that began decades ago, back when I was a little girl", is visiting Japan and Cambodia, which are among Asia's richest and poorest nations.

"Like so many women I was able to achieve both my professional and personal goals because of my education," she said.

"My education is the starting point for every opportunity in my life."

On Thursday, Japan announced plans to devote 42 billion yen ($340 million) over three years to supporting girls' empowerment and gender-sensitive education.



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