Obama stopped in Madrid to promote her Let Girls Learn initiative

By Maria Mercedes Lara
Updated June 30, 2016 04:35 PM
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Credit: Casa de Su Majestad el Rey/Getty

First Lady Michelle Obama joined forces with Spanish royalty on Thursday when she met up with Queen Letizia at the Palace of Zarzuela in Madrid to discuss a cause close to both women’s hearts – furthering girls’ education.

Obama, 52, embraced Letizia, 43, in the palace’s gardens before heading to the Matadero cultural center where Obama presented her Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to promote education for girls in countries where they may not have access to decent schooling.

“Like me, Queen Letizia is the mother of two beautiful daughters, and we’ve had the opportunity to bond over many issues, including the joys and the challenges of raising strong, smart, outspoken girls,” Obama said in her speech, referencing her daughters Malia, 17, and Sasha, 15, and Letizia’s daughters Leonor, Princess of Asturias, 10, and Infanta Sof a of Spain, 9. “And I think that our warm friendship very much reflects the close relationship between our two nations.”

“Every one of us has the power and obligation to be a champion for girls around the world,” the First Lady continued, adding that inequalities among men and women isn’t just limited to developing nations. She also urged the audience, which was mostly made up of young people, to look to break down gender norms.

“You can start with how you raise your own children if you choose to have them,” Obama said. “Maybe it means telling your sons that it’s okay to cry, and your daughters that it’s okay to be bossy. Maybe it means encouraging your daughters, not just your son, to study math and science and sign up for the football team. And if there isn’t a team for girls, maybe it means asking why not.”

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In her own speech, Letizia highlighted the influence on education that she had seen while working with the Spanish Cooperation, an organization which aims to eradicate poverty and help developing nations around the world. She noted that, in Spain, they know that girls education can “transform and protect” and is “inextricably linked to social justice and democracy, family welfare, equality and better health and nutrition.”

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Obama’s trip to Spain comes at the tail-end of her three-country tour to promote Let Girls Learn. Joined by daughters Sasha and Malia, the First Lady traveled to Liberia and Morocco earlier this week to promote quality education for girls.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Letizia and Obama have joined forces. The pair last met up at a gala in Washington in September 2015.