President Donald Trump's administration has cancelled Michelle Obama's "Let Girls Learn" initiative, which advocated for girls' education around the world through the Peace Corps. The flagship initiative was created in 2015 by Michelle and Barack Obama to assist the education of girls in the developing world, facilitated by the Peace Corps and the United States Agency for International Development.
UPDATE: The White House now says the program is not ending. "There have been no changes to the Let Girls Learn program," a USAID spokesperson said in a follow-up statement.
EARLIER: According to documents obtained by CNN, employees were told that while some of the initiatives' programming would continue, the program itself has been terminated, and they were instructed to stop using the "Let Girls Learn" brand immediately. In a statement sent to Bustle, a USAID spokesperson said, "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." Bustle has also reached out to the White House and the Peace Corps for comment.
Let Girls Learn was reportedly shuttered the same day that Trump-appointed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced changes to school lunch regulations during a speech at an elementary school in Virginia. Healthy school lunches were yet another initiative spearheaded by the former first lady, and the new rules will provide "regulatory flexibility" in USDA school lunch standards.
The White House has not yet commented on the shuttering of the program, but current First Lady Melania Trump has made it clear that empowerment and education for women and girls is a priority for her platform, which makes the closing of Let Girls Learn all the more peculiar.
While much of the blame for the shuttering of Let Girls Learn is likely to fall on the shoulders of President Trump, it's important to remember that presidents don't (and shouldn't) act unilaterally when deciding what programs to start or end. And while we don't yet know the reasoning behind this controversial closing, it could likely have more to do with the current first lady's agenda rather than the president's — CNN's request for comment from the White House regarding this closure was directed to representatives to the first lady, who declined to comment.
In the two years since its inception, Let Girls Learn deployed more than $1 billion in funding to add to or create programs supporting the education of adolescent girls in more than 50 countries, and raised money from foreign governments and over 100 businesses to help do the same. One such initiative was USAID's partnership with the U.K.'s Department for International Development to create a teacher apprenticeship program in Afghanistan to help train qualified female teachers in the region. Through federal aid funding and fundraising outside of the American government, this Obama-spearheaded organization certainly did a lot of good for girls and women around the world.
In an interview with CNN, former Obama Chief of Staff Tina Tchen explained further why the shuttering of Let Girls Learn is such a tragedy:
"Let Girls Learn" had several years of funding already baked. We were hopeful that given that, it could continue. But obviously elections have consequences, and nobody knows that better than we.
It's unclear where the funds raised by the organization will go now that the program has been ended, but the impact this closing could have on global girls' education appears obvious.