A sandstorm briefly delayed first lady Michelle Obama’s tour of the Middle East Wednesday, where she urged world leaders to support more educational opportunities for girls.
“If we truly want to get girls into our classrooms, then we need to have an honest conversation about how we view and treat women in our societies,” Mrs. Obama told an international education conference in Qatar. “And this conversation needs to happen in every country on this planet, including my own.”
She said she encountered gender bias as a girl growing up in Chicago.
“Back when I was a girl, even though I was bright and curious, and I had plenty of opinions of my own, people were often more interested in hearing what my brother had to say,” Mrs. Obama said. “I was even told that I would never be admitted to a prestigious university so I shouldn’t even bother to apply.”
She earned her undergraduate degree at Princeton University and her law degree from Harvard.
The first lady is visiting Qatar and Jordan to promote her “Let Girls Learn” campaign, which is aimed at educating more of the 62 million girls worldwide who are not in schools. She also met with U.S. soldiers Tuesday at an Air Force base with comedian Conan O’Brien.
Her trip to Jordan was delayed by a sandstorm, which clouded skies over the capital of Amman and disrupted travel over portions of the Middle East early Wednesday.
In Qatar, Mrs. Obama said improving educational opportunities for adolescent girls requires changing attitudes in addition to providing more funding.
“When it comes to secondary education, girls still lag far behind,” she said. “When girls do attend secondary school, they often do so at great risk.”
Mrs. Obama added, “It’s about whether parents think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons. It’s about whether our societies cling to outdated laws and traditions that oppress and exclude women, or whether their views of women are as full citizens entitled to equal rights.”