MADRID (AP) — U.S. first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday appealed to girls and young women in Spain to get involved in her global girls' education initiative, saying it's important girls are "valued for their minds."
Speaking to hundreds of young women at a conference in Madrid, Mrs. Obama spoke of the difficulties girls face trying getting a school education in many countries. She said she had come to Spain in the hope of inspiring women and girls here to help fight for change.
Mrs. Obama arrived in Spain from Morocco on Wednesday. She had started the three-nation tour to promote the "Let Girls Learn" initiative in Liberia.
President Barack Obama and the first lady launched the project last year to address the barriers that keep more than 62 million girls around the world out of school.
She said that to address this global crisis in education it is important to realize that a lack of resources or material wealth is not the sole cause.
"You see it is not just about whether parents can afford school fees or countries can build enough schools. It's also about whether families and communities think that girls are even worthy of an education in the first place," she said.
"It's about whether girls are valued only for their bodies — for their labor, for their reproductive capacities — or are they valued for their minds as well," she added.
Mrs. Obama said Spaniards should realize how fortunate they are to live in a country that offers so many opportunities and she urged them to use their abilities and know-how to help challenge male chauvinism.
"I know that we can all support efforts to get girls to school and I know that we can change our cultures, "she said.
"I know we can do this because I believe in the power of young women like you to truly change the world," she added.
Spain's Queen Letizia also addressed the conference and was later to meet with Mrs. Obama.
The first lady is scheduled to leave Madrid on Friday.