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Cablegate: 2008 International Women of Courage: Senegalese Candidate.

VZCZCXRO5566
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #2071 2950803
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220803Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9401
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS DAKAR 002071

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR G/IWI, AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL AND INR/AA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PREL KPAO PHUM KISL SG
SUBJECT: 2008 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN OF COURAGE: SENEGALESE CANDIDATE.

REF: STATE 126072

Post hereby nominates Dr. Penda MBow, Professor of History at Cheikh
Anta Diop University and President of the civic organization,
Citizen Movement.

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION
------------------------
Full legal name: Penda MBOW (em-bo)
Job title: President of Citizen Movement and Professor of History at
Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal.

Date of Birth:May 16, 1955 in Dakar

Country of birth: Senegal

Citizenship: Senegalese

Address: Campus universitaire Batiment C Appartement 12, Dakar-Fann,
BP 25968, Dakar, Senegal

Telephone: 221 33 824 77 57 (home); 221 76 684 68 62

Email: pmbow@ucad.refer.sn or movcitoyen@sentoo.sn

Passport number: 101 811 06

JUSTIFICATION
-------------

Professor Penda MBow is known in the most remote huts and villages
of Senegal as an incarnation of courage, freedom, and a tireless
advocate for the promotion of women's rights in the Islamic world.
As a member of Senegal's elite, she chose very early in her career
to fight for ordinary women's freedom and social promotion. In the
70s she concentrated on basic needs such as access to water to
alleviate women's domestic chores. She also was the first and only
opinion-maker to denounce the caste system in Senegal, which is
still a taboo and hinders women's social mobility.

Penda's most significant contribution is her commitment for women's
freedom in Islamic societies. She achieved success in this area
through a feminist interpretation of Islam and the Koran. As a
historian of Islam who has mastered the Koran, she confronted the
Islamist Movement in Senegal in the early 90s. She received death
threats and was physically assaulted by Islamist groups when she
gave a public conference on March 8, 1992 questioning the use of
Islam to justify polygamy and to establish a correlation between
polygamy and the risk of spreading HIV/AIDS. Not only was she
assaulted, but Islamists denounced her in their sermons in mosques
and in the media. She courageously led a legal battle against them
in the courts, leading to the deportation by the Senegalese
Government of Pakistani Islamists who were mentoring the fledgling
Senegalese Islamist movement.

She continued her fight in 2003 by opposing Islamists again when
they tried to introduce a new family Code based on Sharia on the
grounds that only 93 percent of Senegalese people are of the Islamic
faith. The new Code they had submitted to the Head of State with
support from many religious leaders attempted to significantly
reduce the rights of women and suppress the progress achieved by
women. Thanks to her determined opposition the project was aborted.


In 2007, during the preparation of the presidential elections, Penda
again denounced the interference of Islamic religious leaders and
asked that they leave citizens to vote according to their
conscience. She was verbally attacked by religious groups and again
received death threats. She ignored them and refused to take any
special security measures to protect her life. As a result, she
became all the more admired and respected by the Senegalese people
and many expressed their support for her efforts.

Penda has successfully combined theological and academic theory with
a commitment grassroots activism to become a potent force for the
freedom of women. She says that she makes no distinction between
women and society, in her own words "to free women is to free
society". She has published dozens of articles and given hundreds
of conferences around the world on issues of women, violence and
religions; Islam and women; and women's religious innovations.
Realizing the importance role of youth in that combat she
established in 2002 a center to promote civic education to ensure
that a new generation will continue the combat for freedom and
democracy. This nomination supports our key Mission Strategic Plan
goals of Combating Terrorism and promoting Democratic Systems and
Practices.
SMITH

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