Source: All Africa
First lady Michelle Obama is stressing the importance of family and community in encouraging young women in Botswana to reach their goals.
"All of our journeys are shaped, in part, by people in our lives who love us, who believe in us, and who invest in us," Obama said June 24 in remarks to a women's leadership luncheon in Gaborone, Botswana.
The first lady said that in addition to the young women honored at the event, their family members, caregivers and mentors were also invited to take part. "We did this purposefully because we know that education is a family affair. It's a community affair, particularly when it comes to educating young women."
The event celebrated 23 students chosen for their success in secondary school and university. Obama said many of the young women were the first in their families to receive higher education, and commended them for overcoming "tremendous odds to do so."
They were joined by 10 women leaders, each of whom Obama said "has carved out an extraordinary path in this world" and "broken all kinds of barriers" along the way. The group included the first woman chosen as a FIFA soccer referee, the first woman to serve on Botswana's highest court and the country's attorney general.
"Each of these women earned these honors. They spent thousands of hours studying, and practicing, and working. And in the end, their stories were possible because, along the way, each of them had someone in their lives who encouraged them and inspired them," the first lady said.
Obama shared her own story of growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago. Although her parents did not have much money and never had the chance to attend university, Obama said they emphasized the importance of education and were determined to see their children go to college. She and her brother went on to graduate from Princeton University, one of the most prestigious schools in the United States.
"Success is not about where you come from or how much money your family has. Success is about how passionately you believe in your own potential, and, more importantly, how hard you're willing to work to achieve it," Obama told the young women.
The first lady's remarks came during her first day in Botswana. Before the luncheon, Obama stopped at the Botswana-Baylor Adolescent Centre of Excellence, which provides treatment for 4,000 children with HIV/AIDS and their families, according to White House pool reports. Later that afternoon, she was scheduled to meet with President Ian Khama and U.S. Ambassador to Botswana Michelle Gavin.
Since beginning her trip in South Africa June 21, the first lady has addressed student leaders, spent time with young schoolchildren and toured national museums with daughters Sasha and Malia, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson. She has also met with former South African President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, wife of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Obama is scheduled to take a private safari with her family before returning to Washington June 26.