As the last year of the Obama administration draws to a close, first lady Michelle Obama has pushed forward two major initiatives to improve the health and well-being of girls and women. On June 14, she launched the United State of Women Summit, a first-ever event to promote women’s equality, and announced more than $20 million in funding for the Let Girls Learn education initiative, which provides academic opportunities for girls around the world — notably the more than 62 million girls around the world who are not in school.

Held June 14-15 in Washington, D.C., the summit highlighted achievements in the fight for gender equality and reminded participants of the work that still lies ahead. The funding from both non-profit and corporate backers will work toward reducing global barriers and assisting girls in completing their education, with support coming from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Peace Corps and Millenium Challenge Corporation.

Organized seven years after the establishment of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the summit brought together a range of health advocates working to advance the rights and equity of women. Led by Valerie Jarrett, JD, senior advisor to the president and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Tina Tchen, JD, chief of staff to the first lady and executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, the event featured a variety of high-profile speakers including President Barack Obama; Vice President Joe Biden; business leader Warren Buffett; equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter; and actresses Kerry Washington and Amy Poehler.

The event highlighted six key areas for continued action: violence against women, health and wellness, economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, educational opportunity and civic engagement. Notable talking points included:

  • 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college;
  • women make approximately 79 cents to every dollar a man makes, with even greater disparities for women of color; and
  • more than 300,000 women died from pregnancy and childbirth complications in 2015.

Summit highlights included an impassioned speech about violence again women by Biden; a discussion of the importance of role models between actress Sophia Bush and 11-year-old Marley Dias, founder of the #1000BlackGirlBooks initiative; and an interview of the first lady by media mogul Oprah Winfrey. During their conversation, first lady Obama said she was inspired by the efforts shown by women globally.

“When we empower women economically, they come to view themselves not just as business owners, but as leaders,” first lady Obama said during the summit. “As they start making their voices heard and taking their rightful place in their societies, that has a ripple effect, particularly on our young people — both our daughters and our sons — who receive an unambiguous message that women are not property, they are not second-class citizens, but instead they are breadwinners. They’re change agents. They’re people whose voices and contributions matter.”

Visit Let Girls Learn to learn about the campaign.