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News & Press: Administration News

The Importance of Women and Girls Around the World

Monday, July 15, 2013  
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In the days leading up to July 4th, President Obama and the First Family traveled to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania to meet with leaders from government, business, and civil society. The trip reinforced the United States’ commitment to strengthening democratic institutions and investing in the next generation of African leaders, including young women.

In each country they visited, both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama consistently emphasized the essential role that women and girls play in a society’s economic, political and social development and why women and girls are critical to the African continent’s future development and growth. As the President said in Cape Town, "No country will reach its potential unless it draws on the talents of our wives and our mothers, and our sisters and our daughters”.

The President also highlighted the excellent work of the Equal Futures Partnership in a joint press conferencewith South African President Zuma and encouraged South Africa to join the Partnership. The Equal Futures Partnership is a multilateral initiative that is committed to decreasing barriers to women’s political and economic empowerment around the world.

This trip demonstrates what the President has done throughout the Administration, which is to recognize the key role that programs and policies that empower women and girls play in a nation’s overall prosperity.

You can find videos, journals and speeches from the First Family’s trip to Africa and all of the exciting work connecting our two continents here.

Thank you for all that you do!

White House Council on Women & Girls


First Lady Remarks Senegal 7.27.13

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks as she and First Lady Marème Sall visit Martin Luther King Middle School, an all-girls school, in Dakar, Senegal. June 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

We know that educating girls is the surest path to economic development for a country as it yields a higher rate of return than any other investment in the developing world. Studies show that getting and keeping girls in school reduces child mortality and malnutrition; improves family health; delays the age of first marriage; lowers fertility rates; enhances women’s political participation in society; strengthens a family’s survival chances; and increases economic growth.

While in Dakar, Senegal, the First Lady visited the Martin Luther King School, an all-girls middle school. There, she drew attention to the amazing example set by the young female students. She said, "By making this critical investment in your education – and in the future of your country – you all are serving as role models not just for girls here in Senegal, but for girls in the United States and around the world.”

These students, impressive in their academic and extracurricular talents, underscore what Africa stands to gain from empowering young women.

South Africa

President Obama Talks with Students about Health Education 6.30.13

President Barack Obama talks with students in a health education class while touring the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

While in South Africa, President Obama emphasized the role of women in his joint press conference with President Jacob Zuma. He spoke about the Equal Futures Partnership. African partner countries Senegal and Benin join the United States and 20 other countries from around the world to form the Equal Futures Partnership which aims to decrease barriers to women’s political and economic empowerment. President Obama urged South Africa to join the Partnership, saying, "since opportunities for women and girls means greater prosperity for everybody, I’m hopeful that we will be able to welcome South Africa to our Equal Futures Partnership.”

The President continued to highlight the importance of female leadership during his speech at the University of Cape Town for the Young African Leaders Initiative Town Hall. During his remarks he recognized Lebo Bogapane, a strong woman who endured domestic violence and homelessness, and overcame her obstacles to build a crisis center.

While education and leadership are essential elements to women’s empowerment, investing in women’s health is also a cornerstone of that formula. That’s why President Obama visited the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation Youth Center in Cape Town, which offers not only HIV testing and counseling, but also educational and recreational activities, helping young people learn how to keep themselves healthy and contribute to society.

The First Lady’s stops in South Africa similarly emphasized the importance of increasing opportunities for women to become political and economic leaders. Mrs. Obama participated in a Google+ Hangout with students from across the world, in which she discussed women in leadership. She said, "It's not just about getting the education, it's about bringing our gifts and our sensibilities and our perspectives as women to the table. It's not just about getting a seat at the table, it's about what you do with that seat, and do you bring others to the table.” She also ended the trip by attending the African First Ladies Summit co-sponsored by The George W. Bush Institute. At the summit, Mrs. Obama, Laura Bush and First Ladies from all over Africa discussed the vital role that First Ladies play in empowering women in their countries and providing them with more education, better health, and greater economic success.


President Obama Header Soccer

President Barack Obama does a header with a Soccket ball at the Ubongo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 2, 2013. The ball is able to create and store kinetic energy as a battery as it is used. Standing with the President, from left, are: Paul Hinks, CEO Symbion Power; Jay Ireland, President and CEO of GE Africa; President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania; Victor Angel, Vice President of Product Development at Uncharted Play; and Jessica Matthews, Co-founder and CEO of Uncharted Play. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In his last stop of the trip in Tanzania, the President focused on trade and investment in Africa, highlighting the fact that women’s economic empowerment can be the foundation national economic progress. He used the opportunity to advocate for more entrepreneurial opportunities for women: "We need to make sure more Africans are taking advantage of the opportunity to export to the United States. And one of the best ways to do that is to make sure more African goods can compete in the global marketplace. And that means more opportunities for small and medium-sized companies, and entrepreneurs, and merchants and farmers, including women.”

The United States is promoting such opportunities through the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program, an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that supports African women entrepreneurs to promote business growth, increase trade, create better business environments, and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities.

Lastly, the President met with Jessica Matthews, a female entrepreneur who is an excellent example of how women’s entrepreneurship and innovation can lead to better societal outcomes for countries. When she was 19 years old, Jessica invented the SOCCKET ball, an energy generating soccer ball that harnesses the kinetic energy generated during play to provide a source of renewable, off-grid power. The President met Jessica and played with a SOCCKET ball during his tour of the Ubungo Symbion Power Plant in Dar es Salaam.

Fourth of July at the White House

July 4th Weekly Address

Returning from Africa just in time to celebrate the birth of our nation at the White House, President Obama gave an Independence Day Address on July 4th. In his remarks he commemorated our nation’s Independence and recognized the generations of Americans— from farmers to teachers to entrepreneurs—who worked together to make the United States what it is today. The President also thanked the men and women of the military, who have given so much to defend the United States at home and abroad, and said that we are grateful for their service and sacrifice.

Read the President’s remarks and check out some of our favorite White House Fourth of July moments from the past few years.

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