On Thursday 16th February, Mulberry had the tremendous honour of hosting a visit from Tina Tchen, internationally renowned lawyer and former Chief of Staff to former First Lady Michelle Obama. Following two days of sight-seeing in London with Mulberry students and staff, Ms Tchen delivered our second annual Education Lecture at the Royal Society of Arts.
During the day on 16th February, Mulberry students put together a tour of the East End designed to give Tina a flavour of local history and culture. Promee Reza, Ayesha Begum, Elizabeth Todd and Samilah Naira led the tour. We began with a walk from Liverpool Street to Spitalfields market, followed by a visit to Commercial Street and then Brick Lane. On the journey between locations, students told Ms Tchen about the rich history of the area, from the history of Spitalfields market originating in the thirteenth century alongside St Mary’s Hospital and Priory, to the immigrant communities who have made Brick Lane their home since the 1600s – from French Huguenots, to European Jewish communities, to Bangladeshi families, many of whom are the ancestors of current Mulberry students.
Our tour of Brick Lane included a salt beef beigel from the famous Brick Lane beigel shop, Beigal Bake, and a tour of the Jamme Masjid mosque, formerly the Great Synagogue (and before that, a church). We also stopped off at Rough Trade, where we gifted Tina a book about the rich history of East London, and squeezed into the photo booth together to capture the moment.
Later that evening, Tina joined us at the Royal Society of Arts, where she delivered our second annual education lecture. The annual education lecture, inaugurated by Jude Kelly in 2016, provides an opportunity for our school community, our partners and our supporters to come together to discuss the current global context of education for girls and young women. The lecture is delivered each year by an expert speaker.
Tina Tchen spoke eloquently about the background and context of Michelle Obama’s visit to Mulberry for the UK launch of the Let Girls Learn campaign in June 2015. She told us about how the campaign was first created, and the work it has done thus far to ensure every girl around the world can go to school. Her talk placed great emphasis upon the value of educating girls – not just because an educated girl improves the overall health, wealth and wellbeing of her family, community and wider society, but because girls are valuable human beings who deserve every opportunity to develop their full potential. Ms Tchen also gave us some insights into life under the Obama administration, speaking movingly about the wit, warmth and passion of Barack and Michelle Obama, and the work both the President and the First Lady did to reach out to, support and empower marginalised communities – from girls around the world, to LGBTQ people, to children growing up in poverty.
After the lecture, Tina joined us for networking and canapes, spending time talking to our students and students from our partner schools.
We cannot thank Tina Tchen enough for her continued support of Mulberry. In every interaction with our students and our wider community, she is fully present, engaging and inspiring. Her commitment to public service and empowering women and girls is deeply encouraging at a time of great global uncertainty, and continues to inspire our students to take action on behalf of girls’ education.