"We need every one of our citizens, boys and girls, to be educated and involved and empowered," says Michelle Obama

By Tierney McAfee
Updated June 28, 2016 04:35 PM
Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP

The Obama women have added two new members to their “ special girl-power unit.”

On Tuesday, actresses and education advocates Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto joined First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia in Morocco as part of their tour to promote the Let Girls Learn initiative, aimed at helping young girls around the world get a quality education.

After Obama announced that the Let Girls Learn initiative would be extended to Morocco, she, Streep and Pinto participated in a panel discussion with local girls about the importance of education. The first lady documented the moment on her Snapchat account, writing, “It is critical to the health of our nations to invest in girls’ education.”

“Those 62 million girls who are not being educated around the world impact my life in Washington, D.C. Because if we aren’t empowering and providing the skills and the resources to half of our population, then we’re not realizing our full potential as a society, as mankind,” Obama told the audience of local girls, many of who were the first in their families to go to high school. “So we have to change those notions that girls are only valuable for their reproductive capacity, or their ability to do manual labor. We need every one of our citizens, boys and girls, to be educated and involved and empowered.”

“Every single person’s story is different,” Streep said, telling the young women that she was the first in her family to get a university education.

“In my own life I know that losing heart is the most dangerous thing,” she added. “You can put any obstacle in front of me and I will jump over it, but when you lose heart, you lose everything.”

Streep also said she was eager to continent hop for the cause of girls’ education: “If Mrs. Obama asked me to road trip anywhere in the world I would say, ‘I’m there in five minutes.’ ”

Pinto advised the girls to seek out organizations like Let Girls Learn that help young women complete their educations, and added that “it’s important for girls to be able to stand their ground. It’s important for you to not be shy to raise your voices.”

The Obama women touched down in Morocco on Monday evening, where they were greeted by King Mohammed VI’s wife, Princess Lalla Salma. It was the second day of their six-day international trip, which includes stops in Liberia, Morocco and Spain. The Obamas were in Liberia on Monday, where the first lady visited Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a girls’ leadership camp sponsored by the Peace Corps.

“I’m traveling with my mother and my two daughters,” she said Monday, adding with a laugh: “This is the special girl-power unit of the Obama household. We left the president behind because he’s a boy.”

The first lady is set to attend a Moroccan iftar – a traditional dinner to break the fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan – with Princess Lalla Salma on Tuesday night, before continuing on to Spain with her family on Wednesday.