Michelle Obama has said the mass kidnap of Nigerian schoolgirls is part of a wider pattern of threats and intimidation facing girls around the world who pursue an education.
The first lady said she and President Barack Obama were “outraged and heartbroken” over the abduction on April 14 of more than 200 girls from their school.
Michelle Obama was speaking instead of her husband in the weekly presidential address.
The Islamist militant group Boko Haram has claimed the abductions.
Michelle Obama, who was speaking ahead of Mother’s Day in the US on Sunday, said the girls reminded her and her husband of their own daughters.
“What happened in Nigeria was not an isolated incident. It’s a story we see every day as girls around the world risk their lives to pursue their ambitions,” she said.
Michelle Obama cited the Pakistani schoolgirl and campaigner Malala Yousafzai, who was shot and wounded by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ education.
“The courage and hope embodied by Malala and girls like her around the world should serve as a call to action,” she said.
It is unusual for a US first lady to make outspoken foreign policy remarks, but Michelle Obama has campaigned for the girls’ release.
Michelle Obama has often appeared alongside her husband during the weekly address, which is broadcast on radio with a video version available online. This is the first time she has delivered the speech alone.
Earlier this week, Michelle Obama tweeted a picture of herself in the White House holding a sign with the message “#BringBackOurGirls”.
The UN Security Council expressed outrage over the abductions, saying it would consider “appropriate measures” against Boko Haram. The US is seeking to have UN sanctions imposed on the group.
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