1st Lady Plans Visit to Japan,Cambodia 03/03 06:08
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michelle Obama will promote educating girls around the
world during a mid-March visit to U.S. ally Japan, and to Cambodia, a place
where the government's record on human rights gave her husband pause during a
reluctant visit a couple of years ago.
Mrs. Obama will visit Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan, from March 18-20 and end the
trip with a March 21-22 stop in Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia, the White
House said Tuesday.
Cambodia is an interesting choice for the first lady.
President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Cambodia in
late 2012 after his re-election. White House officials insisted at the time
that Obama was only going because Cambodia was the host for two annual regional
summits he has made a point of attending. Obama appeared visibly unhappy during
the brief visit.
The Cambodian government has been led since 1985 by Prime Minister Hun Sen,
who has a reputation for ruthlessness and a low tolerance for opposition. The
southeast Asian nation also has problems with child prostitution and human
The Obamas were announcing the "Let Girls Learn" education initiative at a
White House event Tuesday.
The president and first lady, the parents of two teenage girls, both say
their own success would not have been possible without education, and
everywhere they travel they encourage young people to finish school. In the
U.S., Mrs. Obama also leads a separate initiative encouraging young people to
continue their education after high school.
More than 60 million girls around the world, half of them adolescents, do
not attend school, said Tina Tchen, chief of staff to the first lady.
Lack of education limits their economic opportunities and makes them more
vulnerable to such afflictions as HIV and AIDS, early and forced marriage, and
gender-based violence, said Tchen, who also directs the White House Council on
Women and Girls. Educated girls and their families, meanwhile, are more likely
to have a better quality of life.
The administration is putting under the "Let Girls Learn" umbrella a range
of programs currently operating largely across Africa and the Middle East that
focus on education, empowerment and leadership, health and nutrition,
gender-based violence, and early and forced marriage.
Separately, the Peace Corps and Mrs. Obama's office will work together to
support community-based solutions to these issues.
The Peace Corps has thousands of volunteers working in more than 60
developing countries. Its "Let Girls Learn" program will begin in Albania,
Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Georgia, Ghana, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique,
Togo and Uganda, before it is expanded to other countries.
A third aspect of the initiative is designed to help kids in the U.S.
understand why they should care about the issue.
The Peace Corps and the U.S. Agency for International Development are
already spending money on these programs. Obama is also asking Congress for
$250 million in new and reallocated funding for the initiative, Tchen said. The
administration anticipates getting additional support from the private sector,
philanthropies, foundations and other donors.
In Japan, Mrs. Obama will highlight the importance the two countries place
on international girls' education. President Obama traveled to the close U.S.
ally on a state visit last April, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to make
a reciprocal visit soon.
Cambodia is one of 11 countries included in the first year of the "Let Girls
Learn" program to be run by the Peace Corps.
In Cambodia, Mrs. Obama will see how community-driven solutions are helping
girls, a focus of the Peace Corps piece of the initiative.