Trump Wants to End Michelle Obama’s Girls’ Education Program

I think it’s safe to say many of us miss Michelle Obama, who was an outspoken and driven first lady with a particular commitment to children’s issues. Though she’s left the White House, her gains for early childhood education seemed like a fitting legacy – except for the fact that the Trump administration just put the kibosh on it by attacking Let Girls Learn.

The Trump administration reportedly issued a memo indicating that the innovative program, which aims to increase access to education for young women in developing nations, would be terminated — effective immediately.

However, after public outcry, the administration denied that it would terminate Let Girls Learn –  though it offered no explanation of the memo’s announcement that it would abandon use of the initiative’s name and would no longer maintain a stand-alone program.

USAID told The Independent that there were no planned changes to the program.

Because Let Girls Learn is a stand-alone program, it can uniquely and effectively coordinate the efforts of multiple agencies that ordinarily don’t work together. USAID, the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Departments of State, Labor and Agriculture all contribute different pieces of the puzzle.

Together, these organizations identify barriers for young women across the Global South. And in addition to promoting and strengthening existing programs, they help develop new initiatives where needed. Their work focuses on a new approach to development that’s grounded in grassroots community leadership and bottom-up innovations — rather than sending in foreign “experts” to tell people what to do, they consult with local community members to identify and meet their needs.

Let Girls Learn works in combat zones and other regions where social and political pressures can make it even more challenging to access a safe, comprehensive and meaningful education. UNICEF notes that secondary education is an incredibly valuable tool for fighting gender inequality.

Annually, Let Girls Learn uses about one billion dollars for activities like funding teacher training, providing textbooks, paying school fees, promoting reproductive health, running educational camps and fighting child marriage. If one billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, keep in mind that the total annual budget is around $3.8 trillion. The Pentagon budget is around $583 billion.

Investing substantial resources in childhood education for young women all over the world has the potential to net tremendous return. Higher educational attainment tends to equate to higher earnings, which can lift young women out of poverty and help them play a more active role in society.

It may also enable a flowering of innovation, as young women realize their potential as creators, scientists, researchers and so much more. In turn, this women-led entrepreneurship could generate revenue for nations, helping them to achieve economic independence and repay loans from organizations like the World Bank.

Greater gender equality also carries numerous benefits — and not just to women who will have more free and just lives. A more equal society tends to be more peaceful and prosperous.

And the United States can certainly benefit from this type of “soft diplomacy,” which builds cordial relationships with nations that may become important allies. Whether we’re counting on an agricultural export, hoping for help with conflict resolution or aiming to facilitate intellectual and cultural exchange, investing in young women’s education is a solid fiscal decision.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Trump administration has issued confusing and contradictory information. Hopefully, the coming days will bring clarity on the fate of Let Girls Learn, and the administration will recognize the value of this program. After all, promoting education for girls should be an important part of our contribution to the global community.

Photo credit: US Embassy Phnom Penh

98 comments

Carl R
Carl R7 days ago

thanks!!!

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Sabrina D
Sabrina D8 days ago

Petition signed!!

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Sabrina D
Sabrina D8 days ago

This program doesn't have to be stopped at all!

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R10 days ago

No polite comment at 6:37 a.m.
Petition signed... with hope

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william Miller
william Miller11 days ago

Thanks

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Mary B
Mary B12 days ago

This program is for girls in developing nations, where young girls are sold into child marriages, sex slavery , and all manner of things that will keep them dependent on husbands who are too often abusive. The idea is to give them a bigger view of the wider world, and some basic skills to empower them. Of course all the right wingers do is crab about 'their tax dollors'. No sense of building good will with other countries or helping little girls out of poverty or abuse. So, to you rotten to the core repubs, what do you suggest to build good will and help little girls ? Do you have anything useful to offer ? Time changes nothing. Only the Will of humans put into action can create things that are good. That's what PROGRESS is.

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natasha s
natasha s12 days ago

Trump is a monster.

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga13 days ago

that is awful

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Ingrid H
Ingrid H13 days ago

Idiot.

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Darlene Buckingham

This is a good program and an important one. This shows how petty Trump can be if he is canceling this because he doesn't like the Obamas. That is why politics has to get away from the cult of personality and focus on programs that help or don't help. We also have to look at what politicians do and not just support them blindly. The Obamas still supported big business and big corporations that are harming the planet. This is a good program and bigger than the Obamas. All politicians and people supporting more programs for women is a good thing. IT is sad that there is even a need to have these programs as it is a given that we are all worthy, but humanity is not there yet. Trump is taking us backwards. RESIST!

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