tv CNN Films We Will Rise Michelle Obamas Mission to Educate Girls Around... CNN December 11, 2016 10:00pm-11:01pm PST
equipment. my name is isha sesay. i'm a correspondent at cnn, and this is how my trip to liberia is getting started. >> i'm meryl streep and i'm here in morocco. >> meryl and i are joining michelle obama on a trip to africa. >> the first lady's let girls learn initiative has encouraged u.s. investment in girls education around the world, including liberia and morocco. and we're here to see how it's going. >> as i've traveled the world, i'm seen time and again how our girls are pushed to the very bottom of their societies. i can't accept the barriers that keep them from realizing their promise. i just can't walk away from them. >> these are just some of the extraordinary girls we'll meet. rafina. fozia, janet, hannan, tina,
karima. isha and i have come here to help the first lady gain some insight into what it will take to help girls rise up and cla their equal place in this world. >> you should feel so proud. >> these girls are our change-makers. our future doctors and teachers and entrepreneurs. they're our dreamers and visionaries who could change the world as we know it. i'm kind of nervous. going to meet girls who have been chosen to tell their stories to the first lady of the united states. i'm wondering how i can help them. what is it they really want to say? the girls i'm about to meet, like many in liberia, come from families that somehow survive on just a few dollars a day.
getting girls in school and keeping them there usually isn't a priority, and school can be dangerous for girls here. sexual assaults are a big problem. i really hope i can help them tell their stories because i understand what they're up against. i'm a child from this continent. i'm an african child whose parents came from very humble beginnings. chose grandparents weren't educated. my mother sold ginger beer to help pay her school fee like some of these girls. through force of will and a lot of luck i've got to here. for me, this is not just a big news story. the lives of my loved ones are at risk. i think if i fail to convey to them that they can walk the same path i've walked, then i haven't done a good job. that would be heartbreaking for me. ♪
>> what brings me here is this issue of equality for women and girls. what brings me here is my grandmother. she had three children before 1920, so she couldn't vote. and she didn't really care who was president. but she really cared who was on the school board. and she would have to go to the golf course and find my grandfather on the ninth hole. hand him a piece of paper on the day of the school board election he didn't care anything about that. but she wasn't allowed, she wasn't deemed capable of making
that decision under law. it's an issue shared across cultures. so we find ourselves in morocco, but it's the same in many parts of the world. so i'm interested in these -- in these girls and their aspirations and how things have changed for their mothers, their grandmothers, how they will change for the daughters of these girls. >> i'm trying to build a team here of people that will continue to be committed to these issues for generations. you don't have to be the first lady. you have to care, be ready to do the work, and be honest about it. >> i'm going to meet a young woman called rafina.
as i've read in the note, she lives with her aunt and uncle. it's quite common in this part of the world where you have parents who can't support you, so you go live with a relative. so she's living with them. hello. rafina? how are you? nice to meet you. how are you? >> fine. >> yeah? >> rafina is 20. she lives with her aunt and uncle and earns her keep by doing most of the house work. >> when i get up, sweep the area where i cook. i put my pot on the fire where the food will be on the fire. i wash dishes. after that i draw water and help my little brothers to bathe them, to prepare them for
school. and i go to the market, the general market. >> rafina's mother died when she was 9. her mother struggled to raise children all on her own. rather than marry her off young for a dowry or make her work in the home, her mother made a remarkable sacrifice. she sent rafina away to live with relatives so rafina could get an education. >> you have so much to do during the day. when do you get to do your school work? is that at night. >> yes. like from 9:00 p.m. to 11 i can do my school work. >> when everyone's gone to bed? >> yes. >> but with so many mouths to feed, her uncle questioned the importance of paying rafina's school fees. in liberia, as in many parts of the world, school is not free. families have to pay to educate their children. ironically, it was rafina's education that saved her uncle's life. two years ago, the deadly ebola
veers virus swept across liberia. the disease was everywhere. in rafina's house, her uncle got sick. she recognized the symptoms from biology class. he didn't believe it. she was a girl. but she wouldn't give up. she forced him to get quarantined and to get treatment. he survived. educate the girl, and good things happen to the family. rafina's uncles living proof of that. your mother, did she go to school? >> no, she didn't go to school. even though she's not educated, she educated her children. >> she did. if you educate your children. >> yes. >> then, you know, it changes their lives and it can change the family's life. >> yes. i'm actually -- i'm actually proud of her. >> you should be proud of her.
you should be very, very proud of her. >> i don't care what the struggle may be, i can make it. >> you know you can. >> yes. >> you can absolutely make it. >> rafina is strong. she's strong and she's driven. she wants to badly to make it. wants to badly to change her circumstances. she studies late at night with this tiny little light. but she studies, she studies and she continues to dream. >> here in morocco, the struggle is different. sometimes less about day-to-day survival, more about survival of the spirit. but still, real physical challenges deny young women their shot at an education. almost half the people live in remote and rural areas where it's difficult to find safe access to schools. sanitation facilities, even clean water. some moroccans enjoy relative prosperity, but others are falling behind. over 40% of women in morocco are
still illiterate. how is the first lady's initiative going to help keep some of the more vulnerable girls in school? >> hi! >> i'm here at project soar, an oasis in the desert for some of these very girls. this is project soar. now i know why, because you soar in the air. privately funded with support from the peace corps, project soar's purpose is to keep girls in school as long as possible. because after 12, most moroccan girls outside the cities drop out. >> i am strong! i am strong, i am capable. >> i am capable! >> i am worthy! >> i am worthy! >> i am smart! >> i am smart! >> girl power! >> beautiful. >> here, they find support and
encouragement, sports, tutoring, but also practical help for girls. hanan is 13. our translator helped her explain to me why many girls disappear from school five days every month. i wondered if most mothers taught their girls about menstruation. >> they don't normally, actually. it's a little bit conservative for a mom to talk to the girls. >> oh, yes? how would the girls understand what's happening to them if their mother doesn't tell them? would a big sister maybe -- >> project soar provides menstrual pads and a portable kit. the older girls instruct the younger in the use of the kits, and this enables them to stay in school. [ speaking foreign language ].
>> i have one question. do you think it might be valuable for the younger ones to come before they have their period so that they're not surprised? if they don't have the help that this group supports at home. [ speaking foreign language ]. >> i say this because when i got my period, i was 11. and my mother had not had the talk with me yet. and i thought i was very ill. i thought i was sick. she said, oh, i'm sorry, i'm sorry, i didn't have the talk with you yet. when we came out of that workshop, hanan was suddenly called over.
they're talking to the mayor. >> the mayor? >> yes. >> that's the mayor's crew i believe. that's the mayor's crew. >> for some reason, hanan has been pulled away from the group. is she in some sort of trouble? ♪ (my hero zero by lemonheads) zero really can be a hero. get zero down, zero deposit, zero due at signing, and zero first month's payment on select
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♪ i couldn't understand what they were saying, but hanan, who had been so animated and expressive in the workshop, suddenly she seemed abashed and subdued. evidently through the interpreter, i gather that the mayor was asking does her father know that she is participating in this and with us and being photographed and everything. and i'm not sure what to make of it. what are the pressures on this young girl? ♪
>> during ramadan, people don't eat or have a drop of water from morning until night, which this time of year was about 15 hours. it's 102 degrees. but at the end of each day, families all come together for a special meal to break the fast called iftar. and i'm honored to be invited to share it with hamann's family. >> this is hamman's father. >> this is hanan's dad. >> i meet her father. and i wonder if the mayor has
spoken to him about this afternoon. >> and fatima is her mom. >> so glad to meet you. okay. okay. >> thank you. >> thank you. hanan is very quiet. and there's a tension in the room. it's hard to know if it's the camera or something else. so i ask hanan's father how he feels about her education. and far from disapproving of it, he says -- >> he now works a day job and one all night to be able to
afford to live here where there are schools. >> i can see where hanan gets some of her spirit. her father's mother, who is illiterate herself, is an optimistic and insistent voice for her grandchildren's schooling. >> she said she wanted us to study and make sure that the first lady takes care of the program. >> earlier, i saw a plate being prepared for someone not at the table. and as the meal comes to a close, i learn that hanan's older sister is here in the house in a curtained off room. she's married to a conservative man and she's been forbidden by him to join us tonight. i realize that the pressure on
hanan and her father weighs on the whole family, where tradition and opportunity collide. >> i'm off to meet 16-year-old janet jackson who lives with her family. i understand she sells donuts to make extra money to help pay for her school fees. she's already an overachiever in this part of the world in that she's 16 and she's still in school. she hasn't dropped out. she hasn't fallen pregnant. you know that there's a famous musician called janet jackson. so you have like a super star name. >> yeah. >> who do you live with in this house? >> with my parents. >> your parents and you have brothers and sisters? >> yes. >> how many?
>> i got four sisters and three brothers. >> what grade are you in? >> i'm in the tenth grade. >> so what time does your day start? >> i woke up by 4:00. i get up, i see about food in the morning. wash my dishes and bathe my little sister and brothers, get them ready for school. and then i take bath, get myself ready for school. go to school. after school, i come here, see about food. cook, eat, bathe the children, then go to bed. >> do your parents treat you and your brothers differently, would you say? >> no. the only difference is the working. we the girls work more than the boys. >> but that's not fair. when you imagine your life in the future, ten years from now, 20 years from now, what do you imagine for yourself?
what do you see? >> by the help of god, i want to be a journalist. >> you want to be a journalist like me. i'm ooh a journalist. wow. so you are going to be in the same room as michelle obama. what would you want to say to her? what do you want to tell her? >> actually, i would tell her a lot of things, especially what's affecting girls. >> tell me some of it. like what? >> sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, early marriage. >> do you want michelle obama to understand what it's like for girls in liberia? >> yes. >> and what makes you happy? >> wow. many things make me happy. especially singing. >> you like to sing? >> yes. >> but can you actually sing? >> yes. >> very confident there ms. janet jackson. >> are you ready? >> ms. janet jackson.
♪ god has a plan with you in mind ♪ ♪ for you to be fruitful and multiply ♪ ♪ he knows your ending before your beginning ♪ ♪ don't be dismayed, it's only a delay ♪ ♪ it's not only your time, but your turn ♪ ♪ >> if you met fuzia today where she's about to graduate from a university in marrakesh in language studies, speaking the
berber language, arabic, french, english and japanese, you would think she comes to this garden with every advantage. but of all the girls i met, her family from outside the city was the poorest. her father was opposed educating his girls past the age of 12. her mother was older and sick and needed her at home. fuzia struggled at every step to get herself an education. >> my family rejected the whole thing. they said, you have to stay home. >> how old were you? it was secondary school? >> yeah. >> 12 years old. >> 12 years old. >> and how did you win out? how did you get your parents to agree? >> i said i'm not going to eat anymore. >> oh, you went on a hunger strike? >> yeah. >> oh, my goodness. >> in fuzia's case, it was a teacher who inteened with her parents. >> so he saw the promise in you? >> he said iromise that your daughter is going to achieve her girls because i can see that in her eyes.
>> her family was worried about a 12-year-old walking every day to and from school alone through the remote areas. she walked 8 miles back and forth every day to middle school and graduated number one. but there were no high schools near her home, so she had to move away to continue her education. and she graduated from high school in just three years, top of her class. >> where do you find your courage to have come so far? >> whenever i lost hope and start crying, i just remembered my mom saying that she wanted to see me something very important in society. and i want to achieve her dreams. i would be so happy if i do so. because she's really -- she deserves that. and i have really nice mom and
she's always inspired me and encouraging me, even if she's illiterate and she can't read or write. but still, i would like to make something to show her that i can do it, even if i'm a girl. i'm female. sorry. >> no. it means a lot to me that you would share that. >> yeah. >> yeah, here we are. we're lucky. ♪
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>> when i tell my story as the first lady, i don't start with my degrees from harvard and princeton. i grew up in a working class community. my mother is a huge source of inspiration for me. she didn't go to university. but she has in her this basic common sense and humor and deep love and a fierceness in her that made me think i could do anything. my father, he worked hard. he had a shift job. and it's because of my parents that i always think every day how am i making them proud. that's what keeps me motivated because i owe that to them. >> my next stop is in the small town of marshall.
how are you? how is everybody? fine? yeah? like lots of places in liberia, access to electricity and running water is limited. the ebola crisis two years ago hit marshall hard. things are better now. i'm here to meet tina brown. tina is 15. >> so tina, who do you live with? >> i live with my parents. four brothers and my sister. two girls. >> and you all live together in the same house? >> yes. >> tell me about school. >> i love coming to school for the work. you meet new friends and have fun. share ideas and then you focus on your lesson. >> what's your favorite subject? >> my favorite subject is science. >> and you do well? >> yes. >> tina's father struggles to support the family.
often, there's barely enough money for food. >> so there is a problem with the school fees? >> yes. >> no matter what, he pays tina's older brothers' school fees, but sometimes not hers. >> do you ever say to him it's not fair that you don't pay my school fees, that you pay my brothers' first, do you ever tell him that? >> no. i don't tell him that because of my fear. >> is that common in liberia? does that happen a lot where they prioritize the boys' education over girls'? >> yes. the boys go to school. if you want to learn, you have to keep on your parents every day. >> that's very brave of you to stay on your father and say you should pay my fees, i want to go to school. you know you're brave. do you feel brave? >> yeah. >> do you feel courageous? >> yes.
>> you are courageous. >> on the rare moments when her chores are done and her school work is complete, tina loves to read stories to other children. >> michelle obama's coming. what do you want to say to her if you get the chance? is there something you want to tell her? >> help women, to empower us to go to school, for us to learn something better. >> later, i talked to tina's father off camera. he never felt that his daughter's education was very important. until that moment she was just his daughter, unremarkable. but now he seemed proud of her. maybe for the first time. >> hi, peter. it's isha here with cnn.
>> hi, isha. how you? >> i'm well, thanks. how are you? >> can you hear me? >> yes. >> i'm about to meet the girls who will be spending time with the first lady. they've got a couple questions. for starters, how should they address the first lady? >> they can always say mrs. obama. >> are they allowed to touch her? can they hug her? >> absolutely. the first lady is very, very warm and affectionate. >> brilliant. >> all the girls i've met are here. rafina, tina, janet, and the others who will be telling their stories to the first lady tomorrow. >> i want everyone to be able to share. and then we'll go back around. is that all right? so how much do you know about michelle obama, apart from the fact that she's the first lady? do you know that she's a lawyer? >> yes. >> do you know that her parents weren't rich? did you know that? growing up her parents were not rich? you just need to address her as
mrs. obama. don't have to worry about anything. if you want to touch her or hug her, feel free. >> wow. [ cheers and applause ] >> i do believe we have freida pinto in the house. can i introduce -- [ applause ] >> hi, everybody. >> i'm so excited about tomorrow. >> freida's role is to moderate the meeting tomorrow. one more contribution to her years of work supporting girls an girls' education around the world. >> we need to make sure that the first lady, mrs. obama, hears your stories. we need to make sure that those stories go out into the world as well. ♪
♪ >> be there in about ten minutes now. i'm ready. >> okay. go where those white people are standing over there. i always find look for the white people. even in africa. sometimes that's a clue. thank you. she's going to be here in -- >> in an hour. >> in an hour. >> have everyone get into the van first. how you doing? >> everyone. all going into the press pen until then. >> take your position.
>> first lady is due to land in about three minutes. that makes me think she's obviously hovering up there in the clouds and will land soon. this kind of joyous scene here. and it's getting really tense. >> first lady is here. ♪ >> and there are her daughters and her mother. they are all here. and the welcoming begins. ♪ >> everyone's coming now to get to the school where the
roundtable is taking place. >> they want to show their appreciation. they want to welcome her. >> everyone's thought the rain. that's dedication for you. it was a mad hustle and the white house is just trying to move everyone along to get in quickly. >> hello. are you excited? are you going to tell your stories? >> yes! >> president ellen johnson sirleaf. >> thank you. >> are we ready? >> yes!
>> are we ready for this? >> please put your hands together and please welcome the first lady. [ applause ] >> how are you? >> welcome to liberia. >> thank you. i am so blessed to be here with you all. so proud of you. >> thank you. >> we're not going to be shy. we're going to talk, right? >> yes. >> we're ready for this. >> we're going to jump right into this. talk about the obstacles and some problems that you girls face in getting your most basic education. we're going to start with maybe the party starter, rafina. >> thank you. >> i'm rafina felee.
during the ebola crisis, some girls lost their parents. some even lost their entire family. and most of those girls feel discouraged about life. because they feel that they are no more important in society. because of what happened to them. and they don't really have people to encourage them and tell them they are valued in society. some really want to go to school, but they don't have educational support. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> i want to know what keeps you going. what do you think is different about you that you are able to overcome all those challenges and be as articulate and smart and inspiring as you are? >> thank you, michelle obama. for me, what encourage me is that if madame president can be strong, then i'm a woman like her and i can be strong too. so i encouraged myself more to
learn and put myself in the field of education so that i can be more than her tomorrow in the society. [ applause ] ♪ >> hi. >> how are you? >> many girls getting pregnant in our community. teenage pregnancy, peer pressure. and some of them want to go to school. but how can they go to school? thank you. [ applause ] >> i had desire to go to school. and i go to school, but i have self-support. after school, i sell. i sell after school i go in the market and sell. when i'm not at the market, i go around and sell other things. >> so you found the value in
yourself. [ applause ] >> i really want to know from you how it feels to be a first lady and your challenges, some of your weaknesses, your strength, and the disadvantages. i really want to know. >> excellent. first of all, let me just say how impressed i am with all of you. not just the types of stories you've told, but the way you did it with confidence and with pride. and that's the beginning of becoming a leader. it's just starting to do things that you don't feel comfortable doing, but you push yourself to do them anyway. when i was your age, if anyone had told me that i would be the first lady of the united states of america, i would have laughed at them. because growing up in the united states there had never been an african-american president, let
alone an african-american first lady. so my goal as first lady was to make sure that i was the best first lady i could be. so i made sure that every day i came to my job that i brought a level of passion and confidence and trust. and i try to operate from that place every single day. maybe those are some of my strengths, is the ability to just be me no matter where i am. you don't have to be somebody different to be important. you're important in your own right. people want and need to value because of who you are, because of your story, because of your challenges. that's what makes you unique, you know? you want to be different, you want to be special. the fact that you've been able to overcome challenges, this is what i always thought, that made me smarter. that made me better, right? because i could overcome things that a lot of people in the same position never had to overcome.
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♪ it was amazing. it was amazing and i'm just so blessed to spend time with them. and i'll come back. i'll come back and see them. all right. we're off. we got to go. bye! ♪ >> hey, merrill, it's isha here. we are on a rain-soaked tarmac about to board the first lady's plane to head to where you are there in morocco. i hope it is not raining. >> rain? >> it's been pouring for two days.
>> not raining. i don't think it's rained here in a while. >> i'm so looking forward to meeting you. >> me too. i really am. so isha, when you get here, you and i are going to get out of the city and go way up into the atlas mountains. >> oh, awesome. i'll see you in a couple hours. thank you. take care, meryl. see you soon. bye! ♪ >> we've seen how poised those young women are. i mean, if you think about what we ask them to do, come into a room with the first lady of the united states and share your story in front of the world with cameras and lights. to be able to do that at all, let alone if you grew up in a small rural town and you had to leave your family to get your
>> where? >> we're about 20 kilometers out. >> i think so. >> okay. >> we're going to meet the brilliant young woman who's been chosen to share the stage with mrs. obama tomorrow. >> high school valedictorian, karima took part in a u.s. program called tech girls. she wants to be an engineer. >> what's your thinking about why girls are less represented in the sciences? >> while growing up, the girl's always represented as the beauty. so they move towards art or music or literature. that was the stereotype that generalized every one. but girls started realizing that they have brains as well. and they will excel in math and science and technology. >> do you think you will be nervous when you're in the room with michelle obama? when i look at you you're so wonderfully poised and confident.
have you ever had a problem with lack of confidence? >> my parents play a part in that. they're always pushing me towards confidence. confident yet. i'm really nervous, but i just try not to show it. sitting with women like you gives me the power to be confident and speak my mind. >> yeah. ♪ >> i'm so excited to be with both of you. >> usually when i hold it, i hold it like this. or cover it like that. >> now you're just showing your thumb to the world. >> that's how all my selfies look like. >> we have to go into the hold because we have to get ready for our conversation with these amazing girls here in morocco. we'll be joined by mrs. obama to find out about what girls go
through to make their hopes and dreams come true. ♪ >> here they are. >> how are you? i've heard so much about you. i've read about you all. >> let me start with the one you are -- and i can feel your anticipation to see her, right? i'm talking about the first lady of the united states, michelle obama, joined by meryl streep and freida pinto. you can give them a bigger, warmer applause than that. come on! [ applause ] >> thank you all. i am beyond excited to be here with all of you. and i'm so excited to be able to bring a piece of the world here
to hear your stories. if there are people who come to you and say why should we educate girls. well, the health of any nation can be measured by the health of women in that society. because women bear children. they raise the children. and if you look at women who are not educated in their countries, there are higher infant mortality rates, higher rates of hiv. obviously lower wages. and all of those conditions have an impact not just on that girl, but on her family, on that society, and eventually on the entire nation. so that's the vision you want to impart to those who might doubt you and those who might say, well, why should we invest. it is critical to the health of our nations. [ applause ]
>> really beautifully said, mrs. obama. >> everyone, i grew up in a family where expectations were high. my brother graduated from high school with honors and went to university. i thought that was it. that's the end of it. my parents got their first born and he's a male and he went to university. achieved their dream, that's it. that wasn't the case. i was wrong. they encouraged me to do the same as he did, if not better. the struggles started when i went to high school. i chose science and technology of electricity as a specialty, which is a domain where males are dominating. stereotypes, you're a girl, what are you doing between machines and wires, you're not supposed to be here. i broke the chain like previous years. boys always come on top. and this year, i came on top. [ applause ] >> korina, thank you. >> i always think, wow, i know millions of girls in the united states and around the world who need to see this, they need to hear this conversation. you don't have to be in the
room, but we all need it. >> i sometimes just don't believe in myself or enough or i don't think i can do it. so my question to you ladies, i'm pretty sure you've all face the this before. how do you overcome that? >> i feel and i agree with you that your biggest enemy sometimes is yourself. and actually that's one of the most important things to talk about in every girl forum like this. i have to tell you that for the last two and a half years, i've been going through the exact same thing. telling myself constantly that i'm not good enough. >> crying is okay. we're sisters. crying is okay. >> so so important that everyone knows that we all have our self-doubts. sometimes it lasts longer than a minute or an hour or a day. you can get through it. meryl, do you want to add anything?
>> i'm not sure i have advice for the girls here. i think within each one of them the young women that i have met have such strength of purpose, it all exists within each of you. it is already there. and you just have to reach in and access it. because in my own life, i know that losing heart is the most dangerous thing. you can put any obstacle in front of me and i'll jump over it. but when i lose heart, you lose everything. and so you take your strength from your friends, from that one person in your life who has said you are capable. [ applause ] >> absolutely. >> you only need one. >> i cannot help but see myself in all of these girls.
these encounters inspire me and remind me of the work that needs to be done. so then i start thinking, what can i do, how do i follow through, what's next? >> well done. ♪ you're broken down and dire ♪ living life on the merry-go-round ♪ ♪ you can't find a fighter ♪ but i see it in you, so we can walk it out ♪ ♪ ooh, ooh ♪ and i'll rise up, i'll rise like the day ♪ ♪ i'll rise up, i'll rise unafraid ♪ ♪ i'll rise up, and i do it a thousand times again ♪ >> this was sort of a full
circle trip. we got to see the many different facets of the challenge, but also to be reminded of the beautiful stories of these girls and the promise that we have. and it just reinforces the fact that we can't afford to waste that talent. we need to invest in it and let it bloom because we need their resources. >> and overcome challenges to become successful. ♪ i'll rise up, rise like the day ♪ ♪ i'll rise up in spite of the ache ♪ ♪ i will rise a thousand times again ♪ ♪ and we'll rise up, like the waves ♪ ♪ we'll rise up in spite of the ache ♪ ♪ we'll rise up and we'll do it a thousand times again ♪
♪ for you, ooh, ooh ♪ for you, ooh, ooh from the american museum of natural history in new york city, this is the tenth annual cnn all-star tribute. >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host of the evening anderson cooper and kelly ripa. >> thank you so much. welcome to cnn heros, an all-star tribute. this night is always special.