President Obama Urges Young African Leaders To Empower More Women


President Obama is once again stepping up for women’s rights, this time on a global scale. The first US president with African heritage (half Kenyan) this week spoke to a group of young African leaders in Washington as part of the annual Young African Leaders Initiative Summit, which was started in 2010.

As part of his speech, he spoke about why empowering women across the continent can only help a country, and used the analogy of having half a soccer team playing against a full team.

“You will not do as well,” he said of the team going out with half its players. That is what it is like when a nation ignores half its population and doesn’t involve them in important issues.

“One of the things we want to teach about Africa is how strong the women are and how we’ve got to empower women,” Obama said.

“As a continent you have to update, and create new traditions and that’s where young people come in. You don’t have to accept what was the old way of doing things. You can respect the past and respect traditions while recognizing they have to be adapted to a new age,” the president said.

While he didn’t mention Boko Haram or to capture of the Nigerian school girls, he did say a woman’s education is an absolute priority worldwide because women are more likely to pass on their knowledge to their children, their household their village and larger communities.

He did take the time to talk about traditions that should no longer exist today. One of them being female genital mutilation.

“There are some traditions that just have to be gotten rid of and there’s no excuse for them. Female genital mutilation, I’m sorry, I don’t consider that a tradition worth hanging onto,” the president said to applause.


The World Health Organization says more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 29 African and Middle Eastern countries, with complications including cysts, infection and infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. Just recently the UK held the inaugural Girl Summit which saw government heads, aid organizations and survivors gather together to find ways to abolish FGM as well as child marriage.

Obama signed legislation last year that made it a crime to take a girl outside the U.S. to perform the procedure. He also said female empowerment will be a topic of discussion at the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, being held Aug. 4-6 in Washington. About 50 African leaders are expected to attend what the White House says will be the largest gathering any U.S. president has held with African heads of state and government.

On HBO’s ‘Last Night With John Oliver’ the British host pointed out that Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world. It happens at a 91% rate between married women aged 15-49. He humorously asks why are pyramids the first thing we think of when the country is mentioned, when something so appalling like FGM is happening at such a high rate.

President Obama encouraging and empowering this group of young African leaders to revise certain traditions which serve no purpose could be beneficial, it at least one person goes back to their country and makes a concerted effort to stop this atrocity.

“One of the single-best measures of whether a country succeeds or not is how it treats its women,” Obama said in the video below.

Another announcement made at the meeting attended by the 500 leaders was the the initiative was being renamed ‘The Mandela Washington Fellowship’ after the late South African President Nelson Mandela who died in December 2013. Obama said the spirit of the group reflects the optimism and idealism of Mandela.

Take a look at Obama addressing the attendees and speaking about the importance of empowering women alongside men in Africa.





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