Michelle Obama has joined forces with some heavyweight celebrities to push a message of female empowerment in an entertaining way. In line with her Let Girls Learn campaign, the American First Lady has lent her voice in a different kind of way. She is not just speaking the message of girl power, she is now singing it!
That’s right, FLOTUS’ vocals can be heard on the track ‘This is for my girls’ produced by hit-maker Diane Warren (who described it to Billboard as ‘We Are The World’ meets ‘Lady Marmalade’) which also includes the likes of Janelle Monae, Missy Elliott, Kelly Clarkson, Kelly Rowland, 16-year-old Motown artist Jadagrace, Beyoncé protégés’ Chloe & Halle, Lea Michele and Zendaya is a catchy single, the proceeds of which will go to charities that are working with the ‘Let Girls Learn initiative.
At the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Michelle joined a panel moderated by Queen Latifah about the song, and talked more on why advocating for girls education and the same opportunities as boys is important, not just in the developing world, but also in the United States.
She drew upon her own experience as a young girl and why that has compelled her to use her elevated platform for the good of other girls.
“Growing up as a black girl on the South Side of the Chicago … there were always people around telling me what I couldn’t do and telling me how far I should only dream, and my reaction was to prove the doubters wrong,” said the First Lady.
During her time in the White House she has travelled all over the U.S. as well as the world getting a better grasp of why championing the cause of ever girl to have access to education important. Many studies show that for every extra year of schooling beyond elementary school, a girl’s earning potential increases from 10-15% in some cases. It is no just a great idea, this whole “girl power” thing. It is good for the economy to have women participating in their communities and in society, operating at their full potential.
“Grown men trying to snuff out the aspiration of little girls—that inspired me to launch Let Girls Learn. There are a lot of men-only tables going in this country and around the world, and the only people who can change that are the men at the table” said Michelle.
In a separate essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter to promote the single and corresponding campaign, she explained more on why caring about girls in the developing world is something we in the West can identify with.
“This issue isn’t just about access to resources like scholarships, transportation, and school bathrooms. It’s also very much about attitudes and beliefs: the belief that girls should be valued for their bodies, not their minds; the belief that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education, and their best chance in life is to be married off when they’re barely even teenagers and start having children of their own,” she wrote.
It may manifest itself is different ways, but the fundamental idea that women are not equal to men, and are only seen as limited-purpose beings is something many of us have come across in the developed world. It is why breaking the cycle has never been more pressing.
“I’ve met girls who make long, dangerous journeys each day to school and then come home and study for hours each night. I’ve met girls studying at rickety desks in bare concrete classrooms who are raising their hands so hard they’re almost falling out of their chairs. I see myself in these girls — in their ambition and their determination to rise above their circumstances. And I believe that …you’d see yourselves in these girls too,” she added.
The campaign has also launched a website called 62milliongirls.com which is named after the number of girls worldwide which are estimated not to have any access to education today. Here you can find more information, resources, and tools to get involved.
Aside from rallying the sisterhood to take action, Michelle Obama says the role of including men in the conversation is important because equality cannot happen with only half the people in the world participating.
“When you have a seat at the table and you have access to power … the question you can ask yourself is, is there diversity around the table? Are there voices and opinions who don’t sound like yours? We reach better answers when we have a broad array of voices,” she said.
Missy Elliott talked about her own experience recognizing the need for females to support each other. Growing up she witnessed her mother become a victim of an abusive relationship, and when she eventually left it became a turning point for the rapper.
“Because I got a chance to see the strength in her, that taught me a lot as a women and being strong and being supportive of other women,” she said.
She also drew parallels to the music industry and how a lack of female decision-makers and female voices at the table means something is missing.
“It’s why you’re not getting as rich [and] diverse a sound in the music as you should. Whenever you remove a woman’s voice from anything, you are lacking. There’s no possible way you can be at your best when you remove women from the equation,” she said.
No girl should ever feel like her voice is missing from the conversation. We really love the Let Girls Learn campaign, even more so now that it has its own girl power anthem! During the SXSW Michelle Obama was asked whether she would ever consider running for president, given that it is an election year, and while she adamantly said “no”, she did reassure the audience that she doesn’t have to be a head of state to champion the cause of female empowerment.
“I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. And I expect to go into my 60s blazing, blazing and trying to be as fly and as healthy as I can be.”
You can purchase the single ‘This Is For My Girls’ on iTunes where all proceeds will go to charity. Hear a snippet of the song below: