You don’t need us here at Refinery29 to remind you that this past year has been simultaneously challenging and revolutionary for women. Between the steady stream of messages we’ve received from our public officials and the even harsher realities (finally) exposed by the #MeToo movement, we’ve spent much of the past year fixing problems of prejudice and inequity.
But as we’re looking inward, International Women’s Day is also an opportunity for us all to look outward. And while we still often treat the education of girls worldwide as some far-flung impossible dream — a pursuit for people exclusively in faraway lands to worry about — the power of young women should be a top priority for both the United States and the rest of the world. According to the United Nations, countries lose more than 1 billion dollars a year by failing to educate girls at the same level as boys. And studies from the Brookings Institution report that just one extra year of secondary school can increase a girl’s future income by 10 to 20%.
It’s simple: A truly healthy and prosperous country is one where girls can learn. That’s been the issue at the core of Michelle Obama’s legacy as First Lady, and she’s not stopping now. For International Women’s Day, Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation teamed up with Refinery29 to shine a light on the importance and urgency of empowering girls around the world — to ensure they can reach their full potential through education and, in turn, support their families, communities, and countries. The result is a Q&A between Mrs. Obama and four young women from Nepal, Ghana, Guatemala, and Chicago, a critical dialogue she hopes will remind us that this is our issue to face, as much as anyone else’s.
“To celebrate International Women’s Day, I wanted to reach out and connect with girls around the world — including in Chicago —to hear their stories and to share some of mine,” Mrs. Obama tells Refinery29. “Working to empower girls across the globe is my passion, and through the Obama Foundation, it will be something I work on for the rest of my life. I hope readers everywhere will be inspired to join me in this effort.”