“No country can prosper if it stifles the potential of its women”: Michelle Obama

“No country can truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives half of its citizens of contributions.” -Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is an inspiration to girls and women around the world. She puts it like this: Coming from a simple upbringing, her comments touch people in the most real way. She talks about how when girls don’t get an education, it makes them more vulnerable to poverty, violence and disease, and also limits the potential of their countries and families. She spoke at the summit of the Mandela Washington Scholarship for young African leaders.

While there is a need to address issues such as training more schools and teachers, allocating more funds for toilets, uniforms, transportation, food, etc., another prevailing issue when it comes to girls’ education is not just resources. but also fundamental attitudes. about girls and women. Whether or not fathers and mothers consider their daughters as worthy of an education as sons, whether societies still cling to outdated laws and traditions that oppress and exclude women, or view them as full citizens and integrity with fundamental rights; she claimed, it’s the game changer.

Michelle Obama stated that the broader conversation about how women and girls are viewed and treated in the world today is something that we must have on every continent and in every country on this planet. Michelle expressed that every opportunity she had had and every accomplishment of hers that she was proud of had grown from a solid foundation of love and experience in her own life. So it really saddens and confuses her to see that women in Africa and other parts of the world are still being denied the equal rights and opportunities they deserve to fully realize their potential.

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Although there are now more girls in Africa going to school, more women are starting businesses, maternal mortality has plummeted, and more women are serving in parliament than ever before (more than 30 percent of legislators in some countries are women). , and in Rwanda it is more than 50%, more than double the percentage in the US), despite all these achievements, in some places girls are still married as children, sometimes even before reaching puberty . Female genital mutilation still continues in some countries. Human trafficking, rape and domestic abuse remain all too common, with perpetrators facing no consequences for their crimes, so clearly there is much work to be done in Africa and the rest of the world.

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Michelle Obama stated that genital mutilation, forced child marriage and domestic violence are not legitimate cultural practices. Rather, they are gross violations of human rights and there should be no place on Earth for them. He reiterated that the future of a country is in its people, in their talent, ambition and drive. And no country can prosper by stifling the potential of its women and depriving itself of the contribution of half its citizens.

Michelle said that a truly strong and powerful man never feels threatened by a powerful woman. Rather, he is challenged by her, inspired by her, and pleased to be her equal to her. She also said that women often internalize the oppression they face by believing harmful messages about how they should look and act, messages that tell us that women don’t deserve total control over our bodies, that they should keep quiet and do what they want. It is said.

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The women then force these messages on their daughters, some of whom still support genital mutilation and insist on marrying off their young daughters or keeping them home from school to help with the housework.

She also spoke of the subtle damage we inflict on ourselves by belittling or criticizing women who dare to defy tradition simply because we are jealous or suspicious of their courage and freedom, and how we often turn a blind eye when a woman of our own community is abused simply because we don’t want to create conflict with the people around us by speaking up.

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Perhaps Michelle’s most exemplary statement in the speech was when she said that leadership is about creating new traditions of honor that value the humanity of each individual. Leadership is about empowering all people, and when families in small towns around the world start demanding equal opportunities for their daughters, that’s when countries start investing in sending girls to school, because then they will accept how important it is.

Vidhi Bubna is a contributor to SheThePeople.TV