The First Lady encourages African men to raise up women and girls

Author: Joya Helmuth


A highlight of the Summit, Michelle Obama's passionate and inspiring remarks to the Mandela Washington Fellows focused on the education of women and girls. She said, "The status of women in Africa is...personal to me as a woman...I am who I am today because of the people in my family—particularly the men in my family—who valued me and invested in me from the day I was born." Mrs. Obama encouraged all of the African leaders in the crowd to support their wives, sisters, and daughters, and treat them as their equal.

Aiming to have an honest conversation with the Fellows, Mrs. Obama addressed the women in the audience to support each other, to stand up for each other and raise the next generation to be even stronger, smarter and bolder. She acknowledged that the accomplishments of the female Fellows that brought them to the Summit were probably not easily won: "I imagine that for some of you here today, getting your degree might have meant disobeying or disappointing your families. Maybe while you’ve been acing your studies and thriving in your career, you have a grandmother who has been wringing her hands because you’re not yet married. But, my sisters, you all are here today because you have found a way to overcome these challenges, and you have blossomed into powerful, accomplished women. And we need you all to help others do the same."

Mrs. Obama then spent time after her speech walking around the room—giving hugs to many of our Mandela Washington Fellows from Notre Dame!

Read Michelle Obama's complete remarks here, and see Voice of America's video news report here.

Photo courtesy of Washington Fellow Jacob Ouma