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Built by Girls

Michelle Obama asked girls to build solutions to improve access education

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Worldwide, there are 62 million girls without access to traditional education due to a lack of resources, safety and general attitudes about girls and women.

In order to address this issue, First Lady Michelle Obama teamed up with AOL (TechCrunch’s owner) to launch the Let Girls Build track as part of the Built By Girls challenge, which recently culminated with a pitch day at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters.

“For many girls, the barriers involve resources,” First Lady of the U.S. Michelle Obama told TechCrunch via email. “Sometimes families can’t afford school fees, or the nearest school is miles away and they have no safe transportation to get there. Sometimes, there is a school nearby, but it doesn’t have adequate bathrooms for girls, so they have to stay home when they have their periods, and they sometimes wind up falling behind and having to drop out.”

As part of the competition, entrepreneurial-spirited girls between the ages of 15 to 17 worked on tech products to help increase girls’ access to education. The finalists built projects including a build-your-own bracelet kit to help girls feel more safe on their way to school, a mass text service to provide safety to in-migrant girls in Cambodia and an initiative for developing global female STEM leaders through the distribution of hands on, educational content.

“I always tell girls here in the U.S. that if you have access to social media then you have the power, right now, to step up as a champion of girls worldwide by sharing their stories and educating people about the challenges they face,” Obama said. “Even more important, you can take action to help these girls — the girls who took part in the Let Girls Build challenge are a perfect example of how you can make a difference.”

TARA, the project geared toward ensuring the safety of in-migrant girls in Cambodia, won the Let Girls Build track and received $10,000 to further develop the product. There are a lot of safety concerns for girls in Cambodia, with child sex trafficking being a major issue and concern for girls and their families. With TARA, girls in Cambodia can access a community-based text messaging service that offers health and safety tips, advice.

Created by seventeen-year-olds Kathy Kong and Lillian Yuan, TARA enables girls in Cambodia to subscribe to relevant educational information and advice around four topic areas: virtual schooling, lifestyle and health, career advice and ask anything.

At the TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon today, Kathy Kong and Lillian Yuan presented their hack, Mapsquito, to fight malaria. You can watch their presentation from Disrupt SF below.

Featured Image: Cheriss May/NurPhoto/Getty Images