First Lady Michelle Obama honored mothers and motherhood on the Mother’s Day weekend by drawing a vital connection to the importance of girl’s education and the unconscionable terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.
After wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day, the First Lady said she wanted to speak about the important issue of the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls from their school dormitory in the middle of the night.
Mrs. Obama pointed out, “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls.”
The First Lady bridged Mother’s Day with this horrific kidnapping, “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams – and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”
Michelle Obama drew attention to the courage of these girls and their families in pursuing an education, “Many of them may have been hesitant to send their daughters off to school, fearing that harm might come their way. But they took that risk because they believed in their daughters’ promise and wanted to give them every opportunity to succeed. The girls themselves also knew full well the dangers they might encounter. Their school had recently been closed due to terrorist threats…but these girls still insisted on returning to take their exams.”
Perhaps unwittingly building on the premise former President Jimmy Carter posited in his book A Call to Action — “the world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights” — the First Lady noted that the kidnapping is not an isolated incident, “And what happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident…it’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions.
It’s the story of girls like Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan.
Malala spoke out for girls’ education in her community…and as a result, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while on a school bus with her classmates.
But fortunately Malala survived…and when I met her last year, I could feel her passion and determination as she told me that girls’ education is still her life’s mission.
As Malala said in her address to the United Nations, she said “The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.”
Mrs. Obama said, “The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action. Because right now, more than 65 million girls worldwide are not in school. Yet, we know that girls who are educated make higher wages, lead healthier lives, and have healthier families. And when more girls attend secondary school, that boosts their country’s entire economy.”
“These girls embody the best hope for the future of our world…and we are committed to standing up for them not just in times of tragedy or crisis, but for the long haul,” the First Lady pledged. “We are committed to giving them the opportunities they deserve to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential.”
“So today, let us all pray for their safe return… let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time…and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.”
Mother’s Day weekend offered FLOTUS a perfect opportunity for a discussion about the human rights violations of girls around the globe, and the importance of education for both girls and boys. And while the human rights violations against women and girls are relative in this country, they are still unacceptable and horrific. It’s ironic that in a country that worships the concept of motherhood, we fail to properly cherish women and girls.
This Mother’s Day, let’s honor the women and girls in our lives by supporting their ambitions and dreams, and standing up for their basic human rights.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.