April 28th, 2009
03:48 PM ET

Why Michelle Obama inspires women around the globe

 [cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/04/28/first.lady/art.first.lady.jpg]

John Blake

Heather Ferreira works in the slums of Mumbai, India, where she has watched thousands of women live under a "curse."

The women she meets in the squalid streets where "Slumdog Millionaire" was filmed are often treated with contempt, she says. They're considered ugly if their skin and hair are too dark. They are deemed "cursed" if they only have daughters. Many would-be mothers even abort their children if they learn they're female.

Yet lately she says Indian women are getting another message from the emergence of another woman thousands of miles away. This woman has dark skin and hair. She walks next to her husband in public, not behind. And she has two daughters. But no one calls her cursed. They call her Michelle Obama, the first lady.

"She could be a new face for India," says Ferreira, program officer for an HIV-prevention program run by World Vision, an international humanitarian group. "She shows women that it's OK to have dark skin and to not have a son. She's quite real to us."


Filed under: 360° Radar • Michelle Obama • Women's Issues
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. VW

    Michelle Obama is very personable and women esp from middle class can identify with her and her values – her concern for raising her daughters out of spotlight, her J Crew attire, her speeches come from the inner simple woman which makes her endearing to crowds and general masses. Though she is technically the elite of USA – The First Lady – she still has not forgotten her upbringing and I think even Mr Obama admires her for that. Plus they are a young, ambitious couple and that probably keeps the media interested in their personal life hence the People mag covers. I frankly was not a fan of her intially before Obama got elected but the way she carried herself in the spotlight made me respect her a lot.

    April 29, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  2. enea

    mrs. obama is real, that's true. I do think it's a bit much that People magazine is concentrating on how much all her outfits cost. They did the same for Palin when she was campaigning. It seems that women are trailed by reporter to find out the cost for their outfits. like that has anything to do with the person. Puh-lease!

    April 29, 2009 at 2:09 am |
  3. Nachand

    Lampe, Michelle is very well aware that she is NOT the president! Michelle has managed to walk around the script that so many of you naysayers had written for her. She is blazing trails as she writes her own script (being read by the world)! You could find yourself in a very lonely corner trying to find a way to minimize her. Based on the tone of your message, whatever cause(s) she champions will probably never role model- or creditworthy. Peace be unto you!

    April 29, 2009 at 1:59 am |
  4. Nachand

    Victoria, I agree, the haters are really having a hard time accepting that it is possible to have a poised, intelligent, confident woman such as Michelle as First Lady. She is proving daily that she can rise above the haters!

    April 29, 2009 at 1:42 am |
  5. joy,ny

    @ lampe thank God she doesnt need your credit, she has got it from most of America, and yes she a role model, whether you agree or not, fact is fact, you cant change the inspiration that people feel about her

    April 29, 2009 at 1:19 am |
  6. Lori Johnson

    I don't think she is being very inspiring putting her family and country at safety risk to "sneak out" for food. The presidential office is being mocked at 100 days in and it is appalling. Like being in the service, your life is not your own. Do you really want Joe Biden as President?

    April 28, 2009 at 7:55 pm |
  7. Victoria

    Mrs. Obama is so confident and comfortable in her skin that it makes others comfortable in their skin. Unless of couse you are a hater, in that case you become so uncomfortable all you can do is squirm.

    April 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm |
  8. Lampe

    How about letting her do something, before you all give her credit. So far, all she has done, is making some speeches, picked a wardrobe, and planted a garden. That does not make her a role-model in my eyes. How about picking a worthy cause, and doing something about that?

    April 28, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  9. Larry

    So a woman can only be an inspiration to other women if she's the 1st lady? What did you know of her before she married Obama? Do you know of her connections to David Axelrod back in the day when she was working for the Chicago Hospital and contracts just accidentally happened to go to Axelrod's companies?

    People just look at the surface; don't judge a book by its cover.

    April 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    Michelle Obama reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was quite active in her husband's Presidency especially in helping get women into the work force for making war material, for civil rights, and for doing the research out among the voters that FDR needed to hear to stay in touch. Eleanor was a helpmate and more – just like Michelle. When I look at Michelle I see a woman who has her priorities straight – her family and then everything else. With more women in the workplace and the workplace expecting more and more of the time of its employees, Michelle puts forth a good example for those of us who work to not let our families suffer from our active career life – that you can do both if you set your boundaries. I'm proud of Michelle and glad she is our first Lady.

    April 28, 2009 at 7:06 pm |
  11. julliet

    michelle obama is everything one would wants in a first lady. She makes us all proud.

    April 28, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  12. ana

    she´s an awesome inspiration to women everywhere. is like she walks around with this big smiles that says – yes, we can (have it all).

    April 28, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  13. Mari

    For the eight ...........long.........long........... years that Bush was in the White House, not ......once........ did I or anyone I know......... criticize Laura Bush!

    However the rightwingnuts have only snide remarks, or sarcasm, or downright mean comments of our Nation's First Lady!

    Michelle Obama is an accomplished woman. Whom I admire.

    You don't lie the cover of People magazine? Don't look at it nor buy it!

    April 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm |
  14. RoseParvin

    When I rose and wrote 9 bookks in one year in 1994 on a calling to be the mother of the world I knew the patterns must change and Power Balance between man and woman must take place which is the lobsidedness of it that has caused the rotted roots of humanity and the Universal Crisis! With Michelle Obama in the Whitehouse 12 years later I am walking my mission of creating change toward Universal Health and Excellence and Global Cultural Power Balance with a partner who is with her husband exactly god sent! SDo much of myths and dogma that is being torn down only as the people watch the current residents of the house that only accepted whites for presentation of the most powerful position on earth: Presidency of United States that is the most crucial position to hold today!

    April 28, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  15. taylor

    Could you please tell me why?? I think its ridiculous to see the President and first lady on the cover of People Magazine... I really don't care about my presidents love life. I just want he or she to do a good job. The way we have celebrated the Obama's as if they are celebrities, is beyond absurd. They both have crossed too many lines.

    April 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Victoria Terreros

    I'm Mexican, hispanic and I'm dark haired and dark skinned in the eyes of many many people ( I'm not that dark) and looking to a REAL woman like Michelle Obama is one of the most exciting and motivating things I've ever seen in my life. She's gorgeous, she's intelligent, she's a mother of 2 daughters only, her husband looks at her and he melts, even the dog loves her. Why? Because she's a REAL WOMAN.She inspires women, it's doens't matter the race, she's not the traditional woman who stays at home...she works, she shows who she is even many people look at her and still think that it's a pity to be black and have dark skin. It's so good to see that many young and old women are looking at her as a hope. We women can say: Yes, we can!

    April 28, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  17. Teresa

    Lampe, she's brilliant, has achieved much in her own right, is impressive when she speaks and exudes class and style. There is much to be said for her as an example to women everywhere. No, she isn't the President, but she is the First Lady, one we can be proud of.

    April 28, 2009 at 4:54 pm |
  18. Tammy Wallace

    I think she inspires my two daughters. When I married Kevin Wallace , Kileen and Angelica thought that you had to have blond hair and blue eyes to be O.K. We have always taught them that they are a children of God. It does not hurt to see Michelle in the white house. Their Asian mother died of lucemia. Anyway they can see that Michelle Obama is married to the President and know that it isO.K. to be who they are. It is O.K. to have black hair and brown eye and darker skin. I am really happy for that

    April 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  19. Lampe

    Why is she getting so much attention, she is after all "NOT" the President of The United States?

    April 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  20. Isabel

    Michelle Obama is a common women that could pass unnoticed by history.

    But she is the exception. She is intelligent, honest, proactive, fun, successful, friendly, human, excellent companion, determined.

    She played key role in the campaign of her husband and probably she will have a significant influence in his chair.

    Ah, she is admired by her husband, which today, is difficult ... lol ...

    April 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm |
  21. Larry

    Don't forget her mom at the WH, the 1st mother-in-law.

    April 28, 2009 at 3:54 pm |