Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates warn girls' education at risk due to pandemic

Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates warn girls' education at risk due to pandemic
© Getty Images

Former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson Obama'Car guy' Biden puts his spin on the presidency Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Son gives emotional tribute to Colin Powell at service MORE and philanthropist Melinda Gates teamed up to write an op-ed warning that girls' education, as well as safety, is at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the editorial, written for CNN, Obama and Gates say girls in middle-income countries are "at risk of being overlooked and left behind," during the pandemic when it comes to their education. They also note that the Malala Fund estimates 20 million girls who should be in secondary school could remain out of school not just during the pandemic, but forever. 

Obama and Gates note that girls being forced to stay home or away from the safety that school can provide increases the possiblility of sexual violence, forced marriage and unintended pregnancy. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"For all these reasons, even a temporary disruption to girls' education could have devastating long-term impacts. Unless we act, the pandemic could trap a generation of girls in a cycle of poverty — and shortchange the world of the talents and ideas these girls have to offer," Obama and Gates argue. "We believe that government, philanthropic and grassroots leaders around the world must prioritize adolescent girls in any pandemic response. History tells us that when we neglect the education and wellbeing of girls, we all suffer."

The piece goes on to call for governments worldwide to take action to get girls back into the classroom when it is safe to do so following the coronavirus pandemic. They also call for reproductive health services for girls, efforts to prevent gender-based violence, and access to menstrual hygiene products.

They also highlight the work of their respective organizations, the Gates Foundation and the Girls Opportunity Alliance, and how they are supporting girls' education and safety globally.

"Raising strong, empowered girls requires strong, deliberate action in normal times — all the more so during a global crisis. And while Covid-19 is forcing the world to do just about everything differently, it's also an undeniable opportunity to do things better," the piece concludes. "We owe it to them — to all of us — to support them in this critical moment."