"As my husband [President Barack Obama] has said, Africa is a fundamental part of our interconnected world. And when it comes to the defining challenges of our times -- creating jobs in our global economy, promoting democracy and development, confronting climate change, extremism, poverty and disease -- for all this, the world is looking to Africa as a vital partner," Obama said Wednesday during an address before a packed Regina Mondi Church in Soweto.
She singled out 75 young women from across Africa in the audience who are attending the first-ever Young African Women Leaders Forum, sponsored by the White House, State Department and other U.S. entities.
At the Rosa Parks American Library, funded by the U.S. Embassy, Obama sat in on sessions led by a woman who helped write South Africa's Constitution, a session on child care for working women and a session on domestic violence. She also visited the Nanga Vhuthilo Center that serves 300 Soweto families and helped harvest spinach and carrots from the garden.
The first lady then headed for Cape Town.
Earlier, in the church at the heart of the Soweto uprising and ensuing anti-apartheid protests 35 years ago, she asked the estimated 2,000 listeners what they would leave future generations after young people years ago endured beatings, jail and death for freedom.
"It is because of them that so many of these young women leaders can now pursue their dreams," she said. "That is the legacy of the independence generation, the freedom generation. And all of you -- the young people of this continent -- you are the heirs of that blood, sweat, sacrifice, and love."
Obama used her husband's 2008 campaign slogan to close.
"If anyone of you ever doubts that you can build that future, if anyone ever tells you that you shouldn't or you can't," she said, "then I want you to say with one voice -- the voice of a generation -- you tell them, 'Yes, we can.'"