President Obama Made An Important Speech In Kenya About Women’s Rights

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While every world leader has their fair share of critics and doesn’t always get it right 100% of the time, we’re just going to put it out there that we are going to really miss our current President Barack “badass” Obama. That is unless Hillary Clinton becomes the next (and first American female) president, then we will breathe a sigh of relief that liberal progress will continue to make this country great.

On a recent trip to Kenya, president Obama made a speech where he loudly stated the need for women’s rights, and pointed at specific traditions that continue to exist in the country. He is one of the most outspoken and very few presidents who is willing to talk about the greater need for gender equality and women’s rights, and although he doesn’t necessarily call himself a feminist (perhaps once his term is over and he isn’t constrained so much by public perception and polls) he will.

He condemned some of the age old traditions in Kenya saying that their existence shouldn’t be an indicator of their necessity.

“Every country and every culture has traditions that are unique and help make that country what it is, but just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right; it doesn’t mean it defines your future,” he said to the 5000-member crowd in Nairobi who cheered him on.

He was also referring to the recent debate in America over the symbolism of the Confederate Flag which became the subject of controversy in South Carolina after a crazed young white gunman shot and killed a number of African Americans, citing racial hatred toward black people.

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The traditions he was speaking about in Kenya are female genital mutilation, child marriage, preventing girls from getting an education and preventing women from working.

“Around the world there is a tradition of oppressing women and treating them differently and not giving them the same opportunities, and husbands beating their wives, and children not being sent to school. Those are traditions. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens. Those are bad traditions. They need to change,” he said without mincing his words.

According to figures from the United Nations, an estimated 31 million girls of primary school age and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age were out of school in 2013. In sub-Saharan Africa, only two of 35 countries measured have gender parity, the lowest ratio in the world. More than one in four girls in Kenya is subjected to genital mutilation, which carries a risk of severe bleeding, problems urinating, infections, infertility and complications in childbirth.

The Guardian reports that this rousing speech came a day after he challenged Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in a discussion about gay rights, something that has recently become legal in all 50 states here at home. In fact President Obama has been on a winning streak lately with his controversial yet ground-breaking Iran Nuclear Deal, becoming the first sitting US president to visit a federal prison and talk about the need to change the drug sentencing laws, and let’s not forget how he pretty much dismantled the Hobby Lobby case against women’s reproductive rights by signing a very important religious exemption under Obamacare which allows women to receive free reproductive healthcare if their employer cites religious reasons to not provide it.

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Obama went on to say that any nation which ignores the basic and essential human rights of half its population is considered a “failure”.

“They are issues of right or wrong in any culture. But they are also issues of success and failure. Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allow them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind the global economy. We’re in a sports center: imagine if you have a team and don’t let half of the team play. That’s stupid. That makes no sense,” he said in his typical no-nonsense manner.

One of the unique things about this visit is that he is not only American, but has Kenyan roots, the significance of which is not lost on him.

“I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya – and of course I’m the first Kenyan American to be president of the United States,” he said to rapturous applause.

While human rights, women’s rights and gender equality becomes an increased focus around the world, especially in developing countries where leaders, organizations and humanitarians are continuing to put the pressure on laws which prevent its citizens from living safely and equally, it is a huge statement that the most powerful man in the world is breaking barriers by going and doing what other US presidents have not.

You can read more on the United States’ official commitment to advancing democracy, human rights and gender equality by clicking here.

Watch highlights from the speech below:

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