Girl Up Teen Leaders Celebrated International Women’s Day with First Lady Michelle Obama – And It Was Totally Inspiring


Yesterday was an exciting day for Girl Up! In celebration of International Women’s Day, Girl Up teen leaders headed to the White House to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, and then traveled in Mrs. Obama’s motorcade to an event in support of Let Girls Learn. Let Girls Learn is a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls attain a quality education, and Girl Up is a proud partner of the initiative.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power provided opening remarks for the event, speaking brilliantly about the status of girls’ education around the world: “Denying girls their rightful spots at a desk in school ensures they will be denied seats at other tables in their lives.” The First Lady then took the stage, delivering a passionate speech on why investing in girls’ education matters to all of us – and how each and every one of us has a role to play. In a line that reminded us of the Girl Up Girlafesto, Michelle Obama remarked, “We’re in this together. Because these girls are our girls. They are us.”

The entire day left us feeling motivated and inspired to continue fighting for every girl’s right to go to school. We asked our girl leader attendees what they thought of the event, and this is what they said:

What resonated most with you from the First Lady’s remarks today?

“What resonated most with me from the First Lady’s remarks was how we may sometimes take our education for granted. It’s really easy to forget that opportunities we are given in high school college and beyond are nearly impossible in some places for girls that have just as much potential and ambition that we do. But I also realized that I too have had experiences where I was underestimated (or I underestimated myself) because I was a girl – like the time my brother told me, at only 7 years old, that I couldn’t be a marine biologist like the dolphin trainers I saw at the aquarium. Or when some boys laughed at me when they saw me enter the AP computer science class senior year of high school, where there were only 3 girls out of 30 students. Or when I had the preconception that I couldn’t finish a physics problem because I just “didn’t have the brain for it.” It happened all the time, and it went right over my head.” – Swati Guin, 18

“There are so many girls who are kept from getting an education in developing countries, and today the First Lady honored them with her remarks. She mentioned girls who struggled with resources, societal attitudes, and their own families, but still powered though to get an education. What struck me the most was when she mentioned girls who would wake up before the sun was out just to ride their bikes miles to school. Those girls truly inspire me.” – Paola Bayron, 18

“Despite the incredible progress we’re making in female empowerment, every woman in the room and around the world has faced some kind of marginalization simply because of her gender. This is an issue in which we all have a stake.” – Jamie Meyer, 19

“I was so struck by the stories the First Lady shared around girls who have overcome obstacles to receive proper education. She shared the story of a girl who stopped an arranged marriage from happening because of what she learned from USAID, and of another girl in Egypt who had the opportunity to go to a technology academy and is now coding for a living. – Elena Gualda, 19

“It was evident that First Lady Michelle Obama is wholeheartedly invested in getting all girls around the world the education they desire and deserve. The passion and enthusiasm that Mrs. Obama exuded was powerful enough to make every word she spoke an inspiring one, but what stood out to me was her call to action directed at both men and women, young and old, professionals and students. Mrs. Obama made it clear that it is all of our responsibility to ensure that these girls in developing countries, as well as right here at home, get the opportunity to learn and have an equal chance at a brilliant future.” – Jesse Catir, 19

Why are you motivated to improve girls’ access to education globally?

“No girl should feel like they aren’t enough. Education empowers one to believe in themselves and see their own potential right in front of their eyes. When someone is laughed at or pushed aside by “doubters,” especially in their communities or own home, it is so easy to believe them and forget what can actually be achieved. I want every girl to realize that there is no reason they can’t be a computer scientist or marine biologist. Girls have the power AND the brains. “– Swati Guin, 18

“Education is not a privilege, it is a right, as the First Lady stated today. I believe that the only way the world can truly advance is if everyone is given the access to an education, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious background.” – Paola Bayron, 18

“Education can and will open doors to girls around the world to help them do something remarkable with their lives. With an education, a girl has the ability to bloom into a strong, empowered, and independent woman.”– Elena Gualda, 19

“When you educate a girl, you educate a nation. By improving access to girls’ education globally, girls will be able to go on and use their knowledge to change the world.” – Simone Cowan, 18

“I’m inspired to help spread the message of girls’ education even farther. Education is a basic human right that every girl, no matter her resources, geography, or access, deserves.” – Jamie Meyer, 19

“When 62 million girls are denied the access to education, we are losing 62 million minds full of potential to advance the human race, and that is an unacceptable truth. As long as I am a woman, I will never stop fighting for equality, and one of the most important steps on our road to a world in which women have the same opportunities as men, is the access to a quality education, for everyone.” – Jesse Catir, 19