Former US first lady to visit Vietnam, back sustained education for girls

By Minh Nga   October 12, 2019 | 02:46 am PT
Former US first lady to visit Vietnam, back sustained education for girls
Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at a school in Illinois, U.S., November 12, 2018. Photo by Reuters/Kamil Krzaczynski.
Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama said Friday she will visit Vietnam in December to promote the message of girls continuing their education.

"I’m excited to share that in December, I’ll be visiting Vietnam to meet some of the inspiring girls from the Girls Alliance community and the organizations that work so hard to support their dreams," Obama tweeted Friday on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child.

In a video posted by the NBC’s Today Show the same day, the former first lady said she will join the show's co-anchor Jenna Bush Hager on the trip as part of the Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program launched a year ago by the Obama Foundation to empower adolescent girls around the world through education.

Hager is the daughter of former U.S. president George W Bush.

She did not reveal specific dates and activities undertaken during her Vietnam visit, her first to the country, but said it was part of helping girls stay in school instead of dropping out.

"98 million adolescent girls are not in school around the world and yet the evidence is clear that when girls get the opportunity they deserve, the whole world benefits. That's why we've been working to lift up grassroots leaders and organizations around the world who improve girls' life every day," she said in the NBC's video.

The Obama Foundation will team up with the Today Show and YouTube Originals to meet "some of these amazing girls" in the nation and "share their incredible stories," she said.

Barack Obama visited Vietnam in May 2016.

Other guests that will join this trip include actress Julia Roberts, Vietnamese American actress Lana Condor, who spent her early years in a Vietnamese orphanage before being adopted by an American couple, and Vietnamese actress Ngo Thanh Van.

The Girls Alliance program has contributed to providing more than 1,500 bikes for girls in Vietnam's rural areas to allow them to get to school more easily and prevent them from dropping out of school because they have to walk a long way to get there.

Vietnam this year climbed one place to 95th in the Global Childhood Report's ranking of 176 countries in protecting and providing for children.

According to the NGO, Save The Children, the report ranks countries based on eight factors - malnutrition, child labor, being out of school, teen pregnancy, homicide, being displaced by conflict, child marriage, and death before age five. Vietnam scored 831 out of 1,000, up from 816 last year.

The report says Vietnam has used additional resources from social investment and economic growth to create highly effective programs benefitting children.

Vietnam has also cut its child labor rate by two thirds since 2000 to 9 percent. Its progress in tackling poverty has improved living conditions for many families and reduced their need to send children to work.

The nation has also invested heavily in education, ensuring high enrollment rates, with a particular emphasis on ethnic minority children and children in remote mountainous areas, the report says.

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