First Lady Michelle Obama Visits Japan To Highlight Empowering Girls through Education

( [email protected] ) Mar 19, 2015 07:29 PM EDT
US Japan Relations - Michelle Obama in Japan
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, left, and her Japanese counterpart Akie Abe pose at Iikura Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Obama is visiting Japan and Cambodia, who are among Asia's richest and poorest nations, to highlight cooperation on helping girls finish their educations. (Eugene Hoshiko, AP / AP)

First Lady Michelle Obama went to Japan on Thursday to showcase her efforts to helping girls finish their educations, asking for cooperation with her Japanese counterpart.

According to a report in the Associated Press, Obama met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's wife, Akie, a businesswoman who owns a bar in downtown Tokyo. The First Lady wanted Japan to support the "Let Girls Learn" project, which is aimed at promoting education for girls in developing countries.

"Like so many women, I was able to achieve both my professional and personal goals because of my education," Obama said. "My education is the starting point for every opportunity in my life."

Obama added that "limits on women's lives" can "stifle their full potential."

According to the Associated Press, "Let Girls Learn" will focus on a variety of projects. They include providing security, building toilets, and helping girls buy or make school uniforms.

"We all know that the problem here isn't just about infrastructure and resources," Obama said. "It's also about attitudes and beliefs. It's about whether fathers - and mothers - think their daughters are as worthy of an education as their sons."

The Associated Press reported that the Japanese first lady has backed Abe's high-profile campaign to "promote greater gender equality in government and business." She has previously described herself as the "domestic opposition."

"Some girls must give up their future or their education," Akie said. "To commute to school. To chat with a friend. To believe in your possibilities. These happy things that are taken for granted in our countries can never be attained by children in some developing countries. This is the harsh reality."

According to a report in The Telegraph, Japan is a major aid donor to the community-based, Peace Corps-run "Let Girls Learn." The country announced that it would devote 42 billion yen ($340 million) over three years to support "girls' empowerment and gender sensitive education."

"The U.S. has earmarked $250 million in new and reallocated funds to support the initiative, and is also hoping to win more backing from the private sector and crowdfunding," foreign staff of The Telegraph wrote.

The Telegraph added that Obama's visit has been perceived as a "make-up" call after President Barack Obama went on his own during a state visit to Tokyo last year. The First Lady also paid a visit to the secluded grounds of the Imperial Palace, where she was received by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Tags : Michelle Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, President Obama, Japan, US Japan relations, US foreign policy, Let Girls Learn, Michelle Obama education initiative, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Akie Abe, Shinzo Abe, Peace Corps, Tokyo, washington