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Michelle Obama: 'My story is your story'

WARM WELCOME: First Lady Michelle Obama was welcomed by students from Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlet

MICHELLE OBAMA caused pandemonium when she made a surprise appearance at an all-girls school in east London on Tuesday (June 16) urging them to lend their “unique voices” to the global conversation.

The US First Lady, who was in the UK on a brief visit, told the young ladies that education would be the “ultimate key to their success” as she shared her own journey from inner city to Oval Office.

Obama also used her speech at Mulberry School for Girls, in Tower Hamlets – a borough with a significant black and Muslim population – to launch the Let Girls Learn initiative, a partnership between the UK and US to boost education globally for adolescent girls.

As the deafening screams died down, the former lawyer told pupils the world needed “more girls like you to lead our parliaments, our courtrooms and universities. We need you for tackling the problems of climate change, poverty and disadvantage”.

She said: “With an education from this amazing school you all have everything, everything you need to rise above all of the noise and fulfil every last one of your dreams.

“And it is so important that you do that, not just for yourselves but for all of us. Because you all have a unique perspective, you have a unique voice to add to the conversation.”

Obama referred to her own upbringing, admitting she knew how it felt to be “lost in the shuffle” and that she never would have believed she would one day be America’s First Lady.

She explained the difficulty feeling comfortable when people say negative things about your religion and you have to face those who need to “see beyond the headscarf”.

“In so many ways your story is my story,” the mother-of-two said.

“I grew up in a working class neighbourhood in the south side of Chicago where people work hard to make ends meet but where families are tightknit.

“Back then I did not know what the future held. I did not know I would be accepted to a top university, those achievements seemed out of my reach.”

Obama revealed, however, that her parents encouraged her to focus on her studies while juggling family commitments that were necessary for their survival.

“Through it all my parents fully expected us to do both: to achieve our dreams and be there for our family,” she continued.

“My parents told me every day I could do anything. I could grow up to be a doctor, a lawyer a scientist, whatever, but only if I worked as hard as I could to succeed in school.”

Obama was joined by International Development Secretary Justine Greening at Mulberry to unveil plans for a global push to make sure girls in poor countries get the education they deserve.

The pair unveiled a new five-year programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo that will give 450,000 children the chance to get a primary school education and help almost 1.4 million girls and boys learn to read.

The programme will focus on helping girls who are out of school in conflict-affected areas, such as North and South Kivu and Katanga, to get back into learning programmes.

It is hoped this will give them the skills they need to get a job and reintegrate into society having faced significant upheaval.

Over a 10-year period, researchers will follow girls in the world’s poorest countries from their first days at school to learn more about the challenges they encounter so they can deal with them.
Greening said: “There are millions of children around the world who will never spend a day in school. Many millions more will make it to primary school but not to a secondary school - they’ll never learn to read and write.

“But we all need to play a part if we want to change that.”

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