Michelle Obama called for an end to "outdated laws and traditions" preventing millions of girls around the world from completing their education, in an impassioned speech Wednesday in Qatar.
She spoke for almost 25 minutes at the Qatar National Convention Centre to a packed audience which included political and education leaders from around the world and dignitaries including Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, mother of Qatar's emir
The US first lady, on a seven-day tour of the Middle East, told an education conference in Doha that an "honest conversation" was needed around the globe about how women were treated and how this prevented millions of girls from finishing school.
"If we truly want to get girls into our classrooms then we need to have an honest conversation about how we view and treat women in our societies and this conversation needs to happen in every country on this planet, including my own," she told delegates at the World Innovation Summit for Education.
"When girls are young they are often seen simply as children but when they hit adolescence and start to develop into women they are suddenly subject to all of their society's bias around gender. That is precisely when they start to fall behind in their education," she added.
"It's also about attitude and beliefs. It's about whether parents think their daughters are worthy of an education as their son.
"It's about whether our societies cling to outdated laws and traditions that oppress and exclude women."