Is Trump Eliminating "Let Girls Learn"? Michelle Obama's Program Had Global Support — UPDATE
UPDATE: In a statement to Bustle on Monday evening, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spokesperson claimed that the Let Girls Learn program was not ending, despite earlier internal memos stating the opposite. "There have been no changes to the Let Girls Learn program," the spokesperson wrote. "The Administration supports policies and programs to empower adolescent girls, including efforts to educate them through the completion of secondary school. We are committed to empowering women and girls around the world and are continuing to examine the best ways to do so."
EARLIER: On Monday, the Trump administration effectively ended Michelle Obama's signature program to educate young women all over the world. Exactly why Trump decided to end "Let Girls Learn" (LGL) is still unclear, as the White House has not yet made a public statement explaining its reasoning behind the move. Romper's request for comment was not immediately returned.
The program, which was funded mainly through federal aid and outside fundraising, was run through the Peace Corps. The agency's director, Sheila Crowley sent an internal email on Monday informing employees that although aspects of the program would continue, they would stop using the "Let Girls Learn" "brand or maintain a stand-alone program."
"Let Girls Learn" provided a platform to showcase Peace Corps' strength in community development, shining a bright light on the work of our Volunteers all over the world. We are so proud of what "Let Girls Learn" accomplished and we have all of you to thank for this success.
But other than that, there was no other explanation for ending the program. By most accounts, the program was widely successful. Since launching in 2015, LGL raised over a $1 billion in funding to educate young women in over 50 counties. Eleven other countries, like Mexico, South Korea, and the United Kingdom were all signed on to help fund and operate the program — chipping in everything from supplies, teachers, and other administrative support. There are also 100 corporate partners dedicated to the program. So the administration's decision to end all of that work is a pretty big move.
Tina Tchen, who was Obama's chief of staff from 2011 through 2017, told CNN that she was disappointed that the new administration cut the program, noting that the overall benefits and successes of the program outweighed the financial costs in her opinion:
We felt it was important to have a branded campaign that drew attention to those issues, and we found that when we did it, we had extraordinary support. I think it's unfortunate to not continue with the branded campaign. We think that this is an issue that has bipartisan support, it's really not a Republican or Democratic issue.
Usually, humanitarian programs like LGL are maintained from administration to administration. Tchen noted that the Obama administration maintained George W. Bush's program, the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) when they took over the White House. So far, Trump still supports that program.
Coincidentally, Trump's secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue visited an elementary school in Virginia on Monday to announce a rollback of the Nutrition Standards for School Lunches program, another one of the former first lady's projects while in office. So it's a pretty bad day for Michelle Obama's legacy, if not just for the young women all over the world that were learning to read, speak languages, and help their communities grow in developing countries.
First Lady Melania Trump hasn't yet launched any new initiatives or programs since her husband has taken office, but she has expressed an interest in anti-bullying programs, as well as programs that educate and empower young women. Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump also hopes to raise awareness about gender equality and female entrepreneurship while her family is in the White House, so it's not like the mission of "Let Girls Learn" goes against the administration's platform.
Perhaps the two of them can work together to bring back something like "Let Girls Learn" or at least formulate some sort of logical reasoning for why the fully funded and successful program was cut. Because educating women in developing countries is something everyone can get behind, politics aside.