Obama Foundation Annual Report 2018

Mrs. Obama greets young girls who helped launch the Girls Opportunity Alliance.



On a crisp fall day, more than 600 girls from around the world gathered together in Rockefeller Center. They were there to celebrate the International Day of the Girl, a day declared by the United Nations in 2011 in recognition of the fact that global progress depends on the progress of girls around the world. But they also got a special treat: a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama and an announcement of a new initiative at the Obama Foundation that supports adolescent girls’ education around the world.

The Girls Opportunity Alliance (formerly the Global Girls Alliance) represents a continuation of Mrs. Obama’s work in the White House to ensure that girls everywhere have a right to learn. It’s a right that deserves far more protection: Today, due to social, economic, and cultural barriers, more than 98 million adolescent girls around the world are not in school.

We know that when girls get the opportunities they deserve, amazing things happen. Poverty goes down. Economies grow. Families get stronger. Babies are born healthier. And the world, by all accounts, gets better.

The Girls Opportunity Alliance is designed to kickstart this virtuous circle in countries around the world by supporting global grassroots leaders who are currently fighting to empower girls around the world. We are connecting these leaders so that they can learn from one another and extend their impact through collective action.

We’ve also made it easy for people everywhere to support them. Through a crowdfunding platform started in partnership with GoFundMe, anyone, anywhere, can support the education of girls in India, Guatemala, Uganda, and beyond. The fund has already received thousands of donations from all 50 states and more than 40 countries.

An Education in Determination

There are nearly 3 million people in the city of Lucknow, in Northern India. Few can match the determination of a tenth grader named Kiran Sahu. After her father passed away, she spent much of her childhood in other people’s homes, cooking and cleaning to support her mother and her five sisters.

Her financial circumstances alone would have made attending school difficult, but as is so often the case with girls’ education, it wasn’t just a question of resources. Kiran has a brother who couldn’t stand to see her attend school. He burnt her books. He burnt her school uniform. And at age 13, he pulled her out of school five separate times.

But in the face of gender discrimination and high school fees, Kiran had champions. That includes her mother, who always encouraged her to get an education and choose a path different than the one she followed. And it also included Dr. Urvashi Sahni, the founder of the Study Hall Educational Foundation and the Prerna Girls School that Kiran attends.

Kiran Sahu on stage

Prerna is more than just a school. It’s an accepting environment that provides access to education for more than 800 girls, many of whom could not otherwise afford it. Prerna also provides girls like Kiran a safe space to discuss issues outside of school work, offering them emotional support and care beyond the classroom. And if girls are ever forced to leave, Prerna and Dr. Sahni are ready to welcome them back with open arms.

Dr. Sahni is one of the thousands of grassroots leaders the Girls Opportunity Alliance supports around the world. Her Foundation has helped expand girls’ education throughout urban and rural India and was one of the first organizations listed on our crowdfunding platform.

Thanks to the support of donors from around the world, we raised $25,000 to support Dr. Sahni’s efforts to provide a formal education to girls in rural communities like Kiran.

Today, Kiran is well on her way to earning the education she always wanted, and fulfilling a new dream: to become a police officer and prove to her brother that girls can run the world.

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