First Lady Michelle Obama, while speaking at an all-girls school in Great Britain on Tuesday, said that men are “useful” in promoting the education of girls.
While participating in a discussion at the Mulberry School for Girls on London’s East Side, Obama said: “There are 60 million girls all around the world, just like the girls here [at Mulberry] but they’re not getting an education.”
The First Lady used to opportunity to promote her Let Girls Learn initiative. The aim of the $200 million program, funded by the United States and the United Kingdom, is to promote girls’ education worldwide. The first projects will help 450,000 children in the Democratic Republic of Congo get a primary school education. Sierra Leone and Liberia will also benefit.
The Mulberry School is dominated ethnically by Bangladeshi students, along with other minorities. Tower Hamlets, where the school is located, is one of the more economically depressed parts of the city. It is made up of Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and otherwise Asian populations. It has been known as a hotbed for Islamic activity in the country.
The First Lady said she could identify with the students, having grown up on Chicago’s “South Side”–that is why she chose to visit their school.
“When I look out at all these young women, I see myself. In so many ways your story is my story,” she told the room, which was made up of mostly Muslim students, wearing the traditional hijab head scarfs. “I know I don’t look [older than you all],” she joked.
“We’ve got to change cultural norms too, that’s why work on the ground is so important” she explained. “We’ve got to send different messages about the importance of educating our girls.”
She added: “You know our sons are important, we love men, we all do, they’re good, they’re useful.”
“I have one in my life,” she added, referring to President Obama. “I like him but you know we have to change the definition of what it means to invest in our young girls.”
Twitter lit up following the First Lady’s remarks about the utility of men. One begged to differ about the usefulness of her husband, in his role as president.
The First Lady encouraged the girls to not limit their education to what they learn in books in school. “Don’t just be book smart,” she said, “be smart about the world, know your community, understand your politics, read your papers, know what’s happening in the world. You have to know how your government works, and you have to vote and be actively engaged at all times, that’s part of an education.”
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Equipping You With The Truth