Nairobi — President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday made a personal commitment in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the country, pledging to provide the necessary leadership needed to fight the vice.
Speaking during the International Conference on Population and Development 25th anniversary (ICPD25) at the KICC, the President affirmed the need to eliminate the practice which remains one of the most serious violations of rights of women and girls.
"FGM is a retrogressive practice whose continued existence in our country in actual fact assaults our individual and our national consciousness. The practice is inimical to our shared fundamental values as enshrined in our very own constitution that we as Kenyans passed," Kenyatta said.
Kenyan community elders and religious leaders drawn from 22 counties most affected by FGM on Friday resolved to end FGM in the country by 2022.
The President acknowledged the religious and cultural leaders for leading the onslaught against the retrogressive practice and assured them of the government's backing.
He further tasked government officials in the ministries of Gender, Education and Health to take the lead in championing government efforts aimed to end FGM in the country.
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and Ethiopia also made a landmark declaration to address cross border FGM practices.
President Kenyatta cautioned communities along the boarders against escaping to neighboring countries to undertake FGM, saying he is in talks with his counterparts, regional Heads of State, to ensure that offenders are dealt with even in those jurisdictions.
While dedicating Kenya to the commitments made in the ICPD25 summit, President Kenyatta noted significant progress in many key areas.
"There is no doubt that, since the landmark agreement made in Cairo in 1994, there has been significant, though uneven, progress in many key areas. Today, nearly one billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty than in 1990 and life expectancy at birth has increased by about seven years. Primary school education is accessible to most children in the world and the global maternal mortality rate has fallen by about 45 percent."
Fertility rates have also declined in most countries, affording couples have better control over family size.
There has been a steady, though slow, increase in the number of women in leadership and decision-making positions in all sectors of society.
In celebrating the progress made since the Cairo Declaration in 1994, Kenya noted achievements in universal access to free primary and secondary education.
"Indeed, this year we achieved 100 percent transition from primary to secondary education.
Further, we have achieved gender parity in both primary and secondary schools," the President said.
On health, the president cited a reduction in child and infant mortality and maternity and free health services for children below one year in all Government health institutions.
"Reduction in Maternal mortality has been steady but slower, from 698 in 1994 to 362 per 100,000 live births today while the contraceptive prevalence rate has doubled."
The Head of State committed to sustain gains made towards the reduction of maternal deaths, eliminating violence against women and girls, eliminating Child Marriages and equal participation of women in political, public and corporate sphere.
Despite a slight increase in women's participation in the workplace, there have been few gains in lifetime earnings and professional and technical leadership.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) women equality in the workplace could add up to $1.2 trillion to global growth by 2025.
At the same time, Uganda President Yoweri Museni committed to ensure that girls are protected from early marriage and violence by creating more opportunities for them in the society.
"Uganda stands firm on eliminating obstacles standing in the way of girls' empowerment including teenage pregnancy and early child marriages and all forms of gender-based violence," he said.
Museveni said his government has invested enormously in building up vocational and technical institutions that will help create employment opportunities for the girls.
"We shall scale up investments in Technical and Vocational education and training to create life and employable skills that are relevant to the labor markets."
Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi affirmed that his government is working on numerous strategies to combat gender violence against girls even as he encouraged his colleagues to join hands in empowering girls.
"Violence against women and girls is illegal and abhorrent and most certainly not tolerable by our government."
UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said at the start of the summit the agency had put women and girls at the center of global development.