How Michelle Obama and the Girls Opportunity Alliance Are Helping Girls Around the World to Keep Learning During COVID-19

POPSUGAR Photography | Nicole Perry
POPSUGAR Photography | Nicole Perry

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives, from how we work, to how we communicate with friends and family, to how kids learn. While children in the US have been deeply affected by school closures this past year, the consequences are even more severe for young girls around the world, who already faced cultural and financial barriers to getting an education. Research suggests that 20 million more adolescent girls may never return to school after COVID-19.

The Girls Opportunity Alliance, founded by Michelle Obama, hopes to change that by supporting the work of grassroots organizations that are making education more accessible for girls around the globe — providing scholarships, computers, textbooks, and more. In many cases, it's not a matter of simply sustaining these girls through remote learning. It's also about ensuring that they are able to return to school once it's safe to do so.

"If we don't invest in the specialness in all of us — in all of our children — we're missing out on half the value that is out there in the world."

Mrs. Obama joined us for POPSUGAR's Girl Talk: Knowledge Is Our Superpower event — which premiered Thursday and is now streaming on Discovery+ — where she spoke with Lilly Singh and two young girls from Kolkata, India, and Namibia, Africa, who have been able to continue their education because of organizations supported by the Girls Opportunity Alliance.

"There are millions of girls like these two young women around the world who are finding a way during these tough times to continue to get their education," Mrs. Obama said. "I'm so proud of them."

Unfortunately, the challenges that adolescent girls already faced are heightened during times of crisis — from child marriage, to hunger, to limited access to education. That's why organizations in the Girls Opportunity Alliance community are working to keep girls learning while also remaining healthy and safe, by delivering food and supplies, as well as by offering counseling services to girls and their families. They're also working hard to help girls keep learning by radio, computer, or cellphone until schools reopen.

But the work of keeping girls in school doesn't end with facilitating remote learning. "When we're in this time of lockdown, I know that there are kids in the US whose parents are worried. What's going to happen to them? How are they continuing to learn at home with no longer having access to their classrooms and their teachers?" Mrs. Obama explained. "The same thing is true for these young women in India and in Africa, except the challenge becomes, will these schools ever open up again?"

There are a number of reasons that a school might close its doors, and the solutions are equally complex. But change begins by shifting the culture and making a commitment to invest in girls' futures — at home, in our communities, and around the world.

"Women, girls — we provide a special something in the world: a unique combination of intellect and nurturing and warmth and compassion," Mrs. Obama said. "Not to say that men and boys don't have that, too . . . but if we don't invest in the specialness in all of us — in all of our children — we're missing out on half the value that is out there in the world."

We hope you'll join POPSUGAR in donating to the Girls Opportunity Alliance so we can create a brighter future for girls. Because education opens doors.