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The President's Weekly Address

March 07, 2015

Hi, everybody. Sunday is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate remarkable women and girls worldwide and to rededicate ourselves to defending the fundamental rights and dignity of all people.

That's why, this week, Michelle and I launched a new "initiative on a topic that's close to both our hearts: girls' education. It's called Let Girls Learn", and its goal is to help more girls around the world go to school and stay in school. Right now 62 million girls who should be in school are not. And that's not an accident. It's the direct result of barriers, large and small, that stand in the way of girls who want to learn.

Maybe their families can't afford the school fees. Maybe the risk of being hurt or kidnapped or even killed by men who will do anything to stop girls from learning is just too great. Or maybe they aren't in school because they're expected to get married and become mothers while they're still teenagers or even earlier. In too many parts of the world, girls are still valued more for their bodies than for their minds. That's just plain wrong. And we all have to do more to stop it.

That's the idea behind ""Let Girls Learn." We're making it clear to any country that's our partner—or that wants to be our partner—that they need to get serious about increasing the number of girls in school. Our diplomats and development experts are already hard at work. Our Peace Corps volunteers will play a big role too. And we're putting our partnerships with NGOs, businesses, and foundations to work on behalf of girls everywhere.

I come to this issue as the leader of the world's largest economy and Commander in Chief of the world's most powerful military, and I am convinced that a world in which girls are educated is a safer, more stable, more prosperous place. When girls are educated, their future children are healthier and better nourished. Their future wages increase, which in turn strengthens their families' security. National economic growth gets a boost too. And places where women and girls are treated as full and equal citizens tend to be more stable and more democratic.

I also come to this issue as the father of two wonderful young women. And I know that there are lots of girls just like Malia and Sasha out there, girls who are funny and caring and inquisitive and strong and have so much to offer the world.

It's a privilege to be the parent of girls. And we want to make sure that no girl out there is denied her chance to learn, that no girl is prevented from making her unique contributions to the world. Because every girl—every girl—deserves our respect. And every girl deserves an education.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

NOTE: The address was recorded at approximately 1:55 p.m. on March 6 in Room 131 of the Benjamin E. Mays Human Resources Center at Benedict College in Columbia, SC, for broadcast on March 7. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on March 6, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on March 7.

Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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