US first lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday called on the world to fund and promote societal change to support girls’ education.
Speaking at the 2015 World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha, Qatar, Obama said more needs to be done to ensure girls know their bodies “are a source of pride, not pain or shame.”
“Solving our girls’ education is definitely about resources, but it is also about attitudes and beliefs,” she said. “It’s about whether parents think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons. It’s about whether our societies cling to outdated laws and traditions that oppress and exclude women.”
Obama’s speech comes as part of her Let Girls Learn initiative. The program encourages world leaders to provide education opportunities to an estimated 62 million girls globally who do not attend school.
Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, former Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s most high-profile wife, opened Wednesday’s event by warning about the educational challenges the Mideast faces amid wars and societal challenges.
“In this region, we are not only paralyzed, but going backwards at the speed of light,” she said.
Sheikha Mozah awarded the 2015 WISE Prize for Education to Sakena Yacoobi, the founder and CEO of the Afghan Institute of Learning. Yacoobi received a gold medal and $500,000.
Obama is on a two-nation visit to the Mideast this week. On Tuesday, she met Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and visited US military personnel at the vast al-Udeid air base with comedian Conan O’Brien. She will travel to Jordan next.