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Michelle Obama Urges Young Africans to Embrace Women's Rights

  • Pamela Dockins

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, in speaking at the Young Africans Leaders Initiative program Wednesday, urged attendees to advocate for women's rights in their home countries.

Obama told the gathering that the issue of women's rights involves men as well.

"So to all the men, my brothers here today, I have a simple message. We need you to shake things up," Obama said.

She said women will play a crucial role in Africa's economic future.

“This is where Africa’s future lies - with those women-run businesses, with those girls attending university and with leaders like you who are making those dreams possible," Obama said.

Inspired by speech

Participants, such as Ezenwa Okoro of Nigeria, said they liked what the first lady had to say.

"Every society is measured by the way they treat their women," Okoro said. "And, I feel so inspired by that and this is a message that I am taking back home to my people because where we come from, women don’t get a lot of respect. They don’t get what they deserve."

Lindiwe Dlamini of Swaziland said, "I was inspired most by the message concerning the support that we get from the men behind us."

Obama's remarks were a highlight of a Washington summit that included a speech by President Barack Obama as well.

The participants, who were selected from among 50,000 applicants, met with business leaders such as Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest.com, a personal finance website, who encouraged them to think big.

"Don’t dream this big; dream this big," von Tobel gestured. "Dream so big that people think you are insane.”

Most participants are heading home after the summit wraps up. However, a small group will remain in the U.S. for internships.

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