Cablegate: Mission's Efforts to Combat Female Genital
DE RUEHNR #1908/01 1231156
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031156Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9427
INFO RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 9293
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 5260
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 4690
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 2030
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2236
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 2193
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
UNCLAS NAIROBI 001908
G/IWI FOR ANDREA BOTTNER; AF FOR A/S FRAZER; DRL FOR A/S
LOWENKRON; R FOR U/S KAREN HUGHES; R/ECA FOR MILLER CROUCH
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KDEM PGOV KE
SUBJECT: MISSION'S EFFORTS TO COMBAT FEMALE GENITAL
MUTILATION AND ADVOCATE GENDER EQUITY
1. Summary: On April 21, the Ambassador participated in a
high profile event in Kilgoris in Transmara to support
efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM). See text of
Ambassador's speech in paragraph 6. Participation in this
event was part of the Mission's broader efforts to address
gender equity issues in Kenya. On International Women's Day,
March 8, the Ambassador used the opportunity of Dina Powell's
visit to host a reception for over 300 prominent Kenyan
women. The purpose was to focus attention on pressing gender
equity issues in Kenya. The Ambassador used the event to
announce the Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative and
intended support for the Kilgoris event. See text of speech
in paragraph 7. End summary.
Anti-FGM Event and Support
2. On April 21, the Ambassador participated in a girls' walk
in Kilgoris in the Transmara area of Kenya to support efforts
to end the practice of FGM. The run was organized by an NGO,
Cherish Others, with which the Embassy has worked previously
on this issue. The walk involved hundreds of adolescent
girls threatened with FGM. The purpose of the walk (which is
an annual event) is to mobilize girls, as well as their
parents, friends, and adolescent males, to support them in
their decision not to subject themselves to FGM. The walk
was coupled with an educational seminar which, taken
together, constitute an alternative rite to FGM. Despite the
efforts being made, FGM remains a widespread practice among
the Masaai in the Transmara area. FGM is also practiced in
many other parts of the country.
3. Local government authorities strongly supported the event
and made clear their commitment to ending the practice of
FGM. Two government ministers attended to highlight the
government's commitment. The event usefully generated
significant national media coverage, thus getting the message
against FGM out to a much wider audience.
4. The Mission's support for activities directed against FGM
also includes providing $200,000 to a program to increase
reproductive health and reduce FGM in the refugee camps in
Kenya. In addition, the Mission includes FGM in its
activities to reduce gender-based violence in the region,
including training of health care providers, the media,
religious leaders, and raising awareness among men at truck
stops in Kenya. To help curb FGM among Kenya's Muslim
communities, the Mission works with Islamic religious leaders
to demonstrate that FGM is not mentioned in the Koran or in
Islamic customary law.
Gender Equity and International Women's Day
5. These efforts are, in turn, part of the Mission's
increasing focus on addressing gender equity issues in Kenya.
This March, the Ambassador used International Women's Day to
announce the Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative at a
reception he hosted for more than 300 prominent Kenyan women.
The event, which was also in honor of Dina Powell's visit,
received significant media coverage. The women leaders who
attended applauded the Ambassador's recognition of Kenyan
women who are leading the struggle for women's empowerment in
Kenya, including Member of Parliament Njoki Ndungu who
drafted and championed the Sexual Offenses Act 2006 and
Jacinta Mwatela who as Acting Governor of the Central Bank of
Kenya risked her career to pursue a corruption investigation.
The Mission is also emphasizing gender equity issues in the
context of the electoral process, highlighting the need for
greater participation by women in government and community
leadership. This will be addressed in a speech on the
elections the Ambassador will give on May 10.
6. Begin text of FGM remarks.
It's a pleasure to be with you all today. After arriving in
Kenya last August, my first trip as Ambassador was to
Kilgoris, and then on to Enoosaen, where I distributed 14
scholarships to Masaai high school girls and boys on the
fifth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks on
my country. Kilgoris and Enoosaen are special places to the
American people, since it was in Enoosaen that the Masaai
donated 14 cattle to "ease the pain and suffering" of the
people of New York following the attacks. It was during my
visit here last September that I learned of the programs of
Cherish Others, an organization led by a dynamic lady named
Ruth Konchellah, that is working hard to bring equality and
dignity to Kenyan girls, particularly in TransMara. So when
Cherish Others asked me to participate in the walk and run
that we just concluded, I jumped at the chance to support it.
My only apprehension was that it really would be a seven
kilometer run - instead of walk - but it was a walk and so I
survived! It is also a great personal pleasure that Tegla
Loroupe, a woman who needs no introduction, has joined us
today. Tegla's presence reflects her commitment to improving
the lives of Kenyans. She, along with Ruth Konchellah and so
many of the ladies here today, serve as wonderful role models
for the girls and young women of Kenya. Ruth's mother is also
with us today. She is a writer of children's books, and is
herself an inspirational model for Kenyan girls because of
all that she has achieved.
I participated today to lend my modest support for this
important effort to focus public attention on the need to end
the anachronistic and dangerous practice of FGM. I am the
father of a sixteen year old daughter, growing into a
beautiful young woman, with all of the hope and anxieties
that adolescents have. So I feel a particular affinity with
the girls here today. As I prepared these remarks I thought
about one Masaai girl who said she wanted to be circumcised
because "if you are not cut, no one will talk to you...no man
will marry...you if you are not cut." So let me speak
directly to the girls who bravely participated in this
anti-FGM event today: continue to seek what is best for you;
be faithful to the best of your traditions and your culture;
but do not be frightened by pressure from anyone or the
threat of social stigma; some may seek to ostracize you but
assert yourselves as the future citizens and leaders of this
great country; be an example to your peers and to your
community. And let me speak directly to this community and
to its leaders: you need to protect these girls from FGM and
help them achieve their full potential. Cherish Others'
motto for the event today says it all: "FGM: 2 million girls
are at risk. What are you doing to stop it?"
The United States is firmly opposed to the practice of FGM,
and I am pleased that we are working with Kenyans to end it.
I realize that this issue is culturally sensitive in some
areas of Kenya, but it is one about which we nonetheless need
to speak out. It is an objective fact that FGM is not, as
some allege, beneficial to girls. As one of our recent
Secretaries of State has pointed out, "(M)any girls born in
this Millennium year will tragically be affected by FGM.
They will never see the inside of a school. They will be fed
less and later than their brothers. And around the age of
six, they may suffer genital mutilation. Around fourteen,
they may get married and begin two decades of almost constant
child-bearing." FGM is not an upward path to a brighter
Kenya, but rather works counter to efforts to combat poverty
Working together to end FGM is yet another example of the
vibrant U.S.-Kenyan partnership. For both of our governments
it is first and foremost a matter of health and safety.
Female genital mutilation kills girls due to bleeding and
infections arising from the procedure; it kills women by
increasing the risk of complications during childbirth; and
it kills babies through complications. Stated in its
starkest terms, there are mothers, wives, sisters and
daughters who are dead today and will die tomorrow
specifically because of the practice of female genital
mutilation. In essence, FGM is a both a serious health issue
and an abuse of internationally recognized human rights
standards. The practice leaves a lifetime of physical and
The procedures result in infections, bleeding, and a great
deal of pain and cruelty to young girls. The scarring among
those who survive the practice often makes natural childbirth
impossible, putting the health of our mothers and wives in
danger. Because the cuts and scars often damage the opening
of the girl's birth canal, complications during normal
deliveries occur. And there are a host of other medical
problems that result from the procedure. FGM leads to
thousands of deaths of each year.
To its credit the Kenyan government has for some time been
proactive in combating this practice. Presidential decrees
in 1982 and 1989 banned the practice. In 2001 the Kenyan
government formally outlawed female genital mutilation as a
result of the Children's Act. The government is also
implementing a national plan to eliminate FGM. I am happy to
note that, as a result, the rate for FGM among women has
fallen from 38 percent in 1998 to 31 percent in 2003. Of the
32 percent of Kenyan women who have been circumcised, only 21
percent of their eldest daughters have been circumcised, so
progress is being made. In taking action against FGM and in
improving the lives of girls and women, the Kenyan government
is joining a growing international consensus against the
practice. For example, the Beijing World Conference on
Women's Platform for Action, the policies of the African
Union, and other international agreements call on countries
to adopt policies and laws to prohibit FGM and to support the
efforts of community organizations to eliminate the practice.
I am pleased to see the strong support provided by the
District Commissioner and the government structure here to
end the practice, particularly through support for the
courageous work of Cherish Others.
As part of the U.S.-Kenyan partnership, we are helping to end
FGM through activities focused on four key areas: education
and awareness, provision of health information and services,
empowerment of women, and helping with enforcement of Kenyan
-- We are speaking out, including through our annual Human
-- I have announced that Kenya will benefit from the Women's
Justice and Empowerment Initiative, which seeks to combat
sexual violence and abuse against women, including FGM.
-- We are partnering with Kenya to mainstream gender-based
violence activities, including FGM, in the healthcare system.
This includes training for nurses and midwives.
-- We are fostering education. We have, for example,
supported a nationwide policy on gender equity in education.
-- We are supporting the work of Cherish Others, which has
already saved many girls in the TransMara from FGM through
the tireless work of Ruth Konchellah and her team. Their
most recent one-year program we supported, called "Full Stop
to the Horrific FGM," took a very effective broad-based
approach, focusing on spreading the message not only to young
women, but also to their parents and the community at large.
With our support, Cherish Others is engaging dozens of young
women in an alternative rite to FGM. Ruth and her team are
changing minds and practices, keeping young women healthier
and in school. In short, they are making a difference,
setting an example, and challenging others to do so as well.
-- Through the Ambassador's Girls Scholarship Program, we are
supporting 3,000 Kenyan girls for primary and secondary
education. One component of this, the Masaai Education
Initiative has rescued over 200 girls from early marriage and
But we can only help. It is the women, men, and leaders of
this country who must bring about the cultural and social
change necessary to end FGM. I began my words by
acknowledging that female genital mutilation has its cultural
roots. I am sensitive to the great diversity of Kenyan
cultures. I have great respect and admiration for the
Masaai, the Kisii, the Kipsigis, and all of the great Kenyan
cultures. But I believe that we all as fellow human beings
have an obligation to work together to speak out against this
practice and to do what is in the best interests of the
children. We have an obligation to work together for the
equality, well-being, and prosperity of all Kenyan citizens
of all tribes, of all ethnic groups, of all religious groups,
and of both sexes - male and female. Part of that struggle
is the elimination of female genital mutilation.
I have come here today to honor the courage of these young
women and their parents and friends who chose to say "NO" to
genital mutilation, despite the significant cultural and
social pressures urging them to say "YES." I wish to express
my deep admiration to the members of this community and its
leadership who are supporting these brave decisions.
Together, we can all contribute to the struggle to eliminate
the practice which places so many lives at risk.
7. Begin text of International Women's Day Remarks.
Thank you all for being here this evening to help celebrate
International Women's Day. There are so many Kenyan women of
great accomplishment here that I cannot begin to acknowledge
them all. I do want to acknowledge a very distinguished
senior woman within the U.S. Government who is with us this
evening: Assistant Secretary of State for Education and
Cultural Programs Dina Powell. She is accompanied by two male
colleagues: David McCormack, Security Adviser at the National
Security Council for Foreign Assistance and Economic
Security; and Mike Magan, Senior Director at the National
Security Council for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
International Women's Day is an opportunity to recognize that
prosperity and democracy require the active participation of
women in all aspects of civil and economic life, and to
acknowledge the vital contribution of women to international
peace and security. On International Women's Day we consider
the accomplishments and achievements of outstanding women all
over the world, but also identify how we can all do more to
I want to emphasize that the United States is strongly
committed to promoting the rights of Kenyan women and their
increased participation in all aspects of social, political,
and economic life. This is a highly important dimension of
the strong and growing U.S.-Kenyan Partnership.
Kenya's Shining Examples
Here in Kenya you have no shortage of outstanding, committed
women leaders who are working to improve their country. I
want to cite a few outstanding examples from those among us.
Honorable Njoki Ndung'u has become a household name over the
last year but, more importantly, thanks to her dedication and
perseverance, the subject of sexual abuse of women and
children has also become a household topic, bringing this
critical issue out of the shadows. As many of you know, on
May 31, 2006 Kenya's National Assembly voted to criminalize
the worst forms of sexual offenses. The resulting Sexual
Offenses Act 2006 is arguably one of the most important
pieces of legislation to empower women since Kenya's
independence. It is for that inspiring reason that we
nominated her for the Secretary of State's award for
courageous women. Please accept my warmest congratulations on
this well-deserved honor.
I'd also like to salute Jacinta Mwatela who was until
recently the Acting Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya.
Ms. Mwatela became the Acting Governor at a critical time in
the investigation of suspected money laundering, tax evasion
and violations of banking laws at Charterhouse Bank. Although
some attributed the suspension of her predecessor, Governor
Mullei, to his efforts to investigate Charterhouse, as Acting
Governor, Mwatela was undeterred and showed great courage and
resolve in pursuing the investigation. Her investigation led
to the eventual closure of the bank. You too are an
inspiration to empowered women!
I want to recognize from among the many distinguished women
present tonight, three unsung heroes. They too are an
Pepetua Mugure Mugambi is a blind acupuncturist and masseuse
who was trained in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese. She runs
a home clinic in Kahawa West Estate. She was blinded by a
measles attack when she was just one and a half years old.
Pepetua, we salute your inspirational determination and
Hellen Anyiso Otolo Oduk is a lecturer on philosophy and
gender matters at Kenyatta University. She mentors female
students and is the head of the Young Women Initiative at the
University. This body brings together female students in a
forum to exchange ideas over social challenges facing them.
They visit girls' secondary schools to teach their "younger
sisters." Hellen, we salute your inspirational leadership and
Jacqueline Machaka is the director of Language Solutions
Centre. The school offers language instruction as well as
translation and interpretation services. She started the
school in 2004 when she was just 27 years old. She is fluent
in Chinese and Spanish as well, of course, as English and
Kiswahili. Jacqueline, we salute your example of a young
woman who has taken the initiative and demonstrated business
Women and Democracy
Given that we are entering the electoral season in Kenya, it
is particularly appropriate to address the issue of women and
democracy. Gains for women's empowerment must be accompanied
by commensurate progress in the political realm: women in
Kenya need greater representation in politics and governance.
There are many Kenyan women who aspire to be their
communities' elected representatives. Running for public
office is challenging for the most seasoned politicians, but
the barriers are markedly greater for women in Kenya:
negative stereotyping, violence, and intimidation continue to
impede women's participation both as candidates and voters.
Daunting as these challenges are, they must not deter Kenya's
Much simpler, but no less profound than becoming a member of
parliament, is the basic act of participating - registering
to vote, and then voting; raising issues with your elected
officials and then holding them accountable for their
actions. Using your networks, you can get the message out,
and mobilize women to get their names on the voters' list.
Women are half of this country - you are a formidable voice
that must be heard!
Another example of the incredible impact of empowered women
is found in an area of significant concern to both Kenyans
and Kenya's friends: corruption. The World Bank concluded,
based on a 1999 study, that the greater the representation of
women in a country's parliament, the lower the level of
corruption in that state. Researchers found that women are
less likely to sacrifice the public good for personal gain.
Increased female participation in government leads to more
honest government - one more reason, among many, why more
women belong in public office.
Tonight, I am pleased that we are making several
announcements of new U.S. initiatives to support women's
empowerment. I'll touch on two of them, and Assistant
Secretary Powell will discuss another on exchanges that is
Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative
While the incredible women here tonight have made significant
strides in improving gender equity in Kenya, there is more
work to be done. I am pleased to take the opportunity of
International Women's Day to reaffirm the United States'
commitment to supporting Kenyans on this journey. Tonight I
am proud to announce a new program which we think will have
significant and lasting impact in improving the lives of
women in Kenya.
The Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative will work to
assist the existing efforts in Kenya to combat sexual
violence and abuse against women and to empower them in
society. Kenya, along with Zambia, Benin, and South Africa
has been selected to benefit from this initiative.
As you all know, the causes of sexual violence are complex
and varied but common contributing factors include: lack of
awareness; laws and practices that discriminate against women
and limit their access to economic and judicial resources;
judicial systems ill-equipped to investigate and prosecute
cases of sexual violence; and inadequate services to assist
victims of sexual violence. The United States is planning on
providing $4.0 million in assistance for the first year of
implementing this program in Kenya to protect women and to
empower their role in society. This will be used to increase
awareness of the need for women's justice and empowerment by
addressing attitudes towards women, preventing violence, and
educating Kenyans on their legal rights.
The program will bolster women's justice and empowerment by
strengthening the capacity of the legal system to protect
women and punish violators by training police, prosecutors,
and judges in sexual violence and abuse cases. This
initiative will also raise women's awareness of their rights,
and increase the availability of essential medical services
and counseling programs for victims of sexual violence.
Combating Female Genital Mutilation
We will ensure that the Women's Justice and Empowerment
Initiative also addresses one of the worst forms of violence
against women: female genital mutilation. While this practice
has rightfully been outlawed in Kenya, it remains a scourge
in many parts of the country. In support of the
implementation of the anti-FGM legislation, we have partnered
with Kenyans to mainstream anti-gender-based violence
activities, including FGM, in the healthcare system.
As a further step in our support for combating this
horrendous practice, we will provide assistance for the run
to raise awareness against FGM to be held in April in the
TransMara by the non-governmental organization Cherish
Others, headed by Ruth Konchellah who is here with us
tonight. I am pleased that the U.S. is continuing to support
the efforts of Cherish Others, which has already saved many
girls in the TransMara from FGM. Ruth and her team have
worked hard to spread the message of the horrors of FGM to
young women themselves, but also, and perhaps just as
importantly, to their parents. I plan to participate in the
run that Cherish Others is hosting. I hope that this event
will help inspire everyone to redouble efforts to combat this
awful practice. FGM has no place in the modern world!
Ensuring that women are empowered to combat and overcome
violence is fundamental to human dignity and a critical
factor for achieving sustainable economic development and
social harmony. This is the challenge to you as women leaders
in Kenya: to intensify your participation in the democratic
process, to make Kenya a safer place for women with a more
responsive justice system, and to build a society that
respects women's rights and the profound contribution women
make in their communities.
As you engage in the difficult work of dedicated and
committed women, know that the United States stands by you
and so many other women struggling against stereotypes, and
tradition, and outright discrimination. Through the Women's
Justice and Empowerment Initiative and other programs we will
intensify our partnership with Kenya's women, helping to
empower them as they continue building Kenya's bright future.