Girl Up, the gender equality initiative of the United Nations Foundation, is hosting its 2020 virtual leadership summit online on Jul. 13-15, 2020. Former First Lady Michelle Obama will kick off its annual leadership conference with a special message for young female leaders and gender equality activists around the world. Special guests and speakers include Meghan Markle, Nadia Murad and Chloe x Halle.

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Mrs. Obama, a champion of girls’ education, will share a special message  on behalf of the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program that seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education, enabling them to achieve their full potential and transform their families, communities, and countries. Girl Up and the Girls Opportunity Alliance have worked together in the past to promote grassroots and girl-led actions, and to mobilize their networks in support of girls’ education. Access to education is a human right, and girls’ access to quality education is essential to achieve gender equality and create an equitable world.

“We’re honored to have Mrs. Obama with us at our Summit this year. The impact she has made in this country, and around the world, is deeply inspiring and motivating to our girl leaders –she’s a role model for using your voice,” said Melissa Kilby, Executive Director of Girl Up.

This year’s Summit, presented by P&G, is themed “We Need To Talk,” pushing conversations about issues intersecting with gender equality, like representation in STEM and sports, access to education, and how to create solutions for gender-based violence.

Also joining Mrs. Obama as part of the Girl Up Leadership Summit speaker line-up:

Nadia Murad, 2018 Nobel Peace Laureate, UN Goodwill Ambassador, and Founder and President of Nadia’s Initiative

Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook and Founder of LeanIn.Org and OptionB.Org

Storm Reid, Actress and Activist

Dr. Tererai Trent, Global Humanitarian, Author, Scholar and Educator

Monique Coleman, Emmy Nominated Host, Actress, Champion for Young People

Liz Plank, Author, Activist and Journalist

Wade Davis, Thought Leader, Writer, Educator on Gender, Race, and Orientation Equality

More speakers will be announced in coming weeks. The in-person version of Girl Up’s flagship Leadership Summit in the nation’s capital has brought together more than 3,000 young activists to learn the issues and advocate Congress in recent years. Girl Up expects thousands more to join this year’s Summit in an online setting. Registration is free and is open until July 13, 2020.

—Jennifer Swartvagher

Featured photo: @thiszun from Pexels