Michelle Obama visits Morocco to promote girls’ education
Casablanca - US first lady Michelle Obama announced a $100 million aid package for Morocco to establish a secondary education system that is expected to benefit some 100,000 Moroccan students, including 50,000 girls.
Accompanied by her daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama, during a visit to Marrakech, pledged to tackle exclusion of girls from schools worldwide.
“We will emerge together as a group of women to tackle this exclusion,” which affects some 62 million girls around the world, Obama said during an exchange with Moroccan teenage girls as part of the US initiative launched in 2015.
“I am sitting here now as the US first lady, talking to you, because of my education,” she said.
Some girls told of obstacles, including lack of financial resources and the remoteness of schools from their homes, faced by teenage girls to access education.
The meeting, moderated by CNN journalist Isha Sesay, was attended by US actress Meryl Streep and Indian actress Freida Pinto who are both active in promoting female access to education.
Obama’s visit to Morocco is part of a six-day tour to promote the US Let Girls Learn initiative. The trip included stops in Liberia and Cape Verde.
The aid package is part of $450 million fund developed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a US government foreign aid agency, to help Morocco boost education and employability.
Some $46 million of the money will be dedicated to the Education for Employability Partnership Fund, which funds programmes with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private companies for girls and to reduce gender inequality.
Another $400 000 was given to Morocco by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to be used for girls’ education in rural areas. It will help build five Dar Taliba (houses for schoolgirls), which are to open in September to encourage girls to go to school safely.
More than one-third of the Moroccan population is illiterate — one of the highest rates in North Africa. The rate — 41% — is higher for women, according to official data.
The school parity index is especially low in rural areas and among the poor, the Human Rights National Council said in a 2015 report, based on figures from Morocco’s Ministry of Education. Only 25% of girls aged 4 to 5 attended preschool, compared to 45% of boys in the same age group in rural areas.
In 2015, literacy among females aged 15 and older in Morocco was 58.8% compared to 78.6% among males last year, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Launched in March 2015 by US President Barack Obama and the first lady, the Let Girls Learn initiative seeks to help the more than 62 million girls around the world obtain an education by overcoming obstacles and challenges impeding their schooling.
Morocco is the 36th country to host the initiative. The North African kingdom will be responsible for training volunteers and community leaders to advance education and empower girls. The US Peace Corps will work with local officials to focus on the development of girls through building skills for leadership and employment.