I've been working on women's and girls' issues for much of my 20-year career. In the last decade, the awareness around the importance of investing in adolescent girls is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
Let Girls Learn
The Obama Administration's leadership on girls' education demonstrates how the U.S. government is leading this issue globally – hopefully others will follow with similar boldness. In celebration of International Women's Day 2015, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama launched a transformative initiative called Let Girls Learn.
This unique effort supports collaboration between U.S. government agencies to help girls around the world complete their education and transition into a life with more opportunities.
The increased visibility and resources this initiative offers are an indication that the world is ready to create opportunities for girls. Waiting for girls to become women to address issues of leadership, access to education, and other opportunities is simply too late. Michelle Obama's message was clear: "Now is not the time to be hesitant or risk-averse, as so many girls across the globe are counting on us to be bold, creative and to give them all of the opportunities they deserve to fulfill their promise." These words echo the vision of the Because I am a Girl campaign.
Plan has made a commitment to create a lasting impact on the lives of girls around the world through Because I am a Girl. The time has never been more critical for us to ensure that girls can achieve their potential. As President Obama noted in his speech, "The gap between girls' inherent value and how many of them are treated every day is one of the great injustices of our time. Girls are human beings who deserve equal rights and dignity. My Administration will continue working to make that vision a reality."
White House partnership
The announcement was a huge win for Plan. To promote the Let Girls Learn initiative, Michelle Obama used Plan's film 'I'll take it from here' in an Upworthy blog post. Her use of the video was a ringing endorsement of Because I am a Girl. To further reinforce the message, the President shared the post on his Facebook page!
It was a testament to our work to be part of the Let Girls Learn initiative from its inception. Because I am Girl has contributed significantly to raising Plan USA's status as a thought leader for adolescent girls from public to government level.
In June 2014, Plan USA CEO Tessie San Martin was among 13 nongovernmental organization leaders invited to the White House to share insights with the First Lady into the challenges facing adolescent girls' education globally. As the Because I am a Girl Program Director, I have also worked closely with the U.S. Ambassador for Global Women's Issues to share our research and learnings.
Let Girls Learn is a "community-focused girls" education initiative across the globe' making it a natural partner for Because I am Girl. Building on USAID's initial Let Girls Learn funding and education programs that Plan has been part of, the initiative will elevate existing programs, leverage public-private partnerships, and challenge organizations and governments to commit resources to lift up adolescent girls worldwide. USAID will work in collaboration with the White House, the Peace Corps, and the Department of State while Plan USA will meet with the Peace Corps to continue dialogue on how our experience in community-based solutions for girls' education can expand and scale up this initiative across communities where the U.S. government has Peace Corp Volunteers and Plan has offices.
We have reached a crossroads and have reason to celebrate. To see the issues facing adolescent girls being framed not only within the context of development and humanitarianism, but within national security, foreign policy, and economic domains is significant. President Obama and his National Security Advisor, Ambassador Rice, have emphasized girls' education globally as central to the U.S. foreign policy and national interest. We must leverage the momentum that this opportunity brings to change the lives of girls and future generations.
Being involved in the conversations that preceded the launch of Let Girls Learn, being a part of the launch, and having the White House share our work is the pinnacle of success. Transforming the lives of girls around the world is the necessary next step in human evolution. This is the large-scale commitment to girls' issues that we need to change the cycles of violence and poverty into cycles of prosperity and opportunity.