Michelle Obama tells Tower Hamlets schoolgirls they have a 'unique voice' that the 'world needs'

First Lady also promoted a $180m education initiative with UK partners today

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The Independent Online

Michelle Obama has kicked off her stay in the UK by telling British schoolgirls that they “have a unique voice” that the “world needs” as she launched a $180m initiative to help adolescent girls globally.

Obama will also meet David and Samantha Cameron, as well as Prince Harry, later today to discuss her campaigners for girls’ education globally and better support for military families.

The wife of the president of the US told the assembled girls at Mulberry School, an 'outstanding' Ofsted rated school in the deprived London borough, that her upbringing had been similar to theirs.

"Like a lot of you I grew up by extended family," she said, telling the students how she used to find it "hard to concentrate" as she was surrounded by noise.

She recounted being told "that a girl like me couldn't get into an elite university," or go on to be a doctor, lawyer, leader. "Those kind of achievements seemed totally out of reach."

“You wonder if people will ever see beyond the headscarf,” she said. “You all have everything, everything that you need to rise above the noise … You have a unique voice to add to the conversation.”

She added: “The world needs more girls like you”.

The US First Lady has been a long-time campaigner for support for military families, but Obama has become an increasingly vocal proponent of female education and protection for young women globally.

In an article published today in The Financial Times, Obama noted that she was attracted to these issues “not just as a First Lady but as a mother.”

Earlier this year the US launched the ‘Let Girls Learn’ initiative, focussing on bringing education to girls around the world, including countries such as the Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), Liberia and Sierra Leone which will receive part of an $180m fund from the US and its partners.

After a vicious internal conflict ended in 2003, the DRC became temporarily infamous almost six years ago after a US ambassador labelled it the “worst place in the world to be a woman.” Since then, public attention has drifted, but the situation within the nation for most of the population has remained dire.

Obama’s efforts stand in striking contrast to that other famous spouse, Bill Clinton.

As the next presidential campaign gears up (Jeb Bush threw his hat into the ring yesterday) more and more attention will be focussed on the potential First Gentleman’s role. Bill recently said he saw his role as one of “moral support” and that he would “buck her [Hillary] every morning.”

Meanwhile, Obama appears to be having more success than her husband in his final term, undertaking trips to China, Italy, and England as part of her campaign for female education worldwide.