On Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama stood at a podium at Soweto’s Regina Mundi Church, a haven for anti-apartheid protesters, and spoke to young women leaders about Africa’s role in the 21st century.

“As my husband 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,” Mrs. Obama said.

She urged the 76 young women in the audience to begin leading their communities toward positive initiatives, like ending the stigma of HIV/AIDS and ensuring that all girls receive a quality education. “I know there are those who discount your opinions, who tell you you’re not ready, who say that you should sit back and wait your turn. But I am here today because when it comes to the challenges we face, we simply don’t have time to sit back and wait. I’m here because I believe that each of you is ready, right here and right now, to start meeting these challenges,” the First Lady said.

Mrs. Obama also reaffirmed that her husband’s dedication to Africa’s needs has not wavered. “My husband often says, that if any child goes hungry, that matters to me, even if she’s not my child. If any family is devastated by disease, then I cannot be content with my own good health.  If anyone is persecuted because of how they look, or what they believe, then that diminishes my freedom and threatens my rights as well.”

The First Lady finished her speech with an old favorite chant: “If anyone ever tells you that you shouldn’t or you can’t, then I want you to say with one voice –- the voice of a generation –- you tell them, “Yes, we can!”