During the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young Leaders Summit, held last Monday, President Barack Obama talked for the first time against Female Genital Mutilation and criticized gender oppression in Africa.
Obama said the world’s security and prosperity depend on a “strong, prosperous and self-reliant Africa”. He repeatedly spoke out on the important role women must play in Africa’s future. He talked about empowering African women by getting rid of traditions that have “no excuse” including Female Genital Mutilation and violence toward women.
Regarding FGM he also said “I think that’s a tradition that’s barbaric and should be eliminated” The White House noted that Obama signed legislation last year that made it a crime to take a girl out of the U.S. to perform FGM and that other administration officials have worked to end this practice.
Obama said female empowerment will also be a topic of discussion at the inaugural U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit, being held August 4-6 in Washington. He said that “one of the single-best measures of whether a country succeeds or not is how it treats its women” He compared a country that doesn’t empower women to be scientists or engineers to a World Cup team that only sends out half of his players “You are crippling your own development unnecessarily”