“A Golden Opportunity: The 2016 Let Girls Learn U.S. Exchange Program” by Karima Er-Reyahy, A Moroccan Let Girls Learn Participant

Karima poses with Ambassador Dwight L. Bush, U.S. Ambassador to Morocco, Mrs. Toni Bush, and her fellow Let Girls Learn participants at the White House on International Day of the Girl.

 

During my high school life, I was always known as the social butterfly. I spoke to everyone, tried to engage in every social activity that is available, and hence I met a lot of people who told me about exchange programs. Thanks to them, I participated in English Access Microscholarship Program, Techgirls, and Let Girls Learn. I would like to shed the light on the latter. Let Girls Learn is an initiative started by the first lady of the United States of America Michelle Obama to help girls around the world get the education they deserve. This program had and is still having a great impact on my life because I felt so proud to be part of such an important cause which is girls’ education.

nmaah-photo
Karima enjoyed a visit to the newest museum in Washington, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

I met 21 Moroccan girls and 22 Liberian girls who went through different obstacles and challenges in order to get the education they deserve, and each one of them, with her determination and perseverance, was able to overcome those challenges and barriers and came out victorious.

During the program, we did a lot of activities like going to museums, touring around and seeing the beautiful city of Washington DC, participating in educational learning sessions with the other girls and American girls from programs in the US. But the thing that I would never forget was visiting the White House and meeting the First Lady again.

Tuesday, October 11th, was the International Day of the Girl, and the day when we saw the premiere of the CNN documentary “We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World,” starring Meryl Streep, CNN’s Isha Sesay and Freida Pinto. This movie showed the daily lives of three girls from Liberia, and three girls from Morocco. While I was watching it, I kept crying all the time because of how choked I was to see the actual life of every girl and the obstacles that she faces through each day to get her education. Ralphina and Janet had to get up early in the morning, do the chores, get their siblings ready, cook breakfast then get ready to go school. Fouzia is the only girl who completed her education in her village, she had to walk miles and miles to get to school, and Hanane is the same. Therefore, watching them and watching the audience get so affected by their experiences made me feel so proud to know them as well as every other girl.

This program changed my life because it gave me the opportunity to meet inspirational, successful and strong women and very important people from different domains, add to this openness to multiple cultures. But most importantly, it opened my eyes on so many things and it made me very determined to do all that is in my will to put every girl out there who is still struggling to get education, which is rightfully hers, in a classroom, and encourage everyone else to do the same, due to the fact that this phenomena is universal, and girls’ education is EVERYONE’s cause. After all, every country’s success depends on how active the women’s participation in it. “Every country’s development is measured by the extent of women’s participation in it.” –The first lady Michelle Obama.

Right now, I am studying Technology and Industrial Sciences in preparatory classes, and I want to be an electrical engineer. But I don’t want to just stop right there because I got the education and the career I wanted. No, I want to start an organization that will help girls study and to not be afraid of dreaming big.

Overall, these programs, especially Let Girls Learn, are life changing experiences; therefore, I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make it happen: the first lady Michelle Obama, the US Embassy of Morocco, CNN international, Meridian International Center, the Peace Corps, and everyone else who’s been working and doing major efforts to give all the girls and I this Golden Opportunity.

icebreaker-photo
Karima plays a game with all of the Let Girls Learn participants before going to dinner.

Karima grew up through the Bayti Association of Essaouira, a social service NGO supporting marginalized, at-risk youth in the community. Karima’s undeniable resilience and inner motivation led her to be the first person in her family to receive her high school diploma and enroll in university. Raised by her grandmother, Karima serves as a role model for her peers as well as the current Bayti youth following in her footsteps. She especially values girls’ education and empowerment. As a participant of a Peace Corps organized sexual harassment conference and Girls and Media training, she became even more active using her voice and her leadership to fight for greater equality. She has collaborated with Peace Corps volunteers to lead workshops; community wide events, including International Women’s Day event with over 300 people; and a GLOW camp for over 30 girls.