Three years after starting her Let Girls Learn initiative, former First Lady Michelle Obama continues to fight on behalf of young girls everywhere for their right to an education . In honor of International Women’s Day yesterday, Mrs. Obama spoke to four young women from different parts of the world (Nepal, Ghana, Guatemala, and Chicago) in partnership with Refinery29 about the importance of empowering girls through education.
One of the girls that Obama chatted with was 16-year-old Alejandra Teleguario Santizo from Guatemala, an activist who work to raise awareness about and stop sexual violence and street harassment in her community via local radio shows.
Santizo used her one-on-one session with Obama to seek guidance: “What advice do you have for girl leaders like me?” With her signature elegance and wisdom, Obama replied, “My best advice to girls, including my own daughters, is do not be afraid to fail. So often, our own fear of failure is the thing that keeps us back. We think we have to be perfect, that if we make even the tiniest mistake, it’s a catastrophe.”
In turn, Obama asked the 16-year-old about the significance of educational opportunities in her country: “Why is an education so important to you and to other girls in Guatemala?” The teen didn’t mince any words when addressing Obama’s question: “Schools in my community in Guatemala are missing many basic infrastructures, like computers, desks, and materials, as well as curriculums that promote both the personal and social development of young girls, particularly indigenous girls,” Santizo, who wants to become an English teacher, said: “I’ve seen too many girls drop out of school, not be allowed to go to school, or receive a poor quality of education. That’s why I’ve decided to become a teacher myself.”