President Obama recently visited his father’s birthplace of Kenya and he made sure to address the country’s long-running issues with equal rights for women.

While addressing a massive crowd of nearly 4,500 during his speech at a well-known sports arena in Nairobi, President Obama did not hold back as he spoke out against the harmful and inhumane treatment of women that continues to negatively affect Kenya’s female population. Gender mutilation, sexual assault against women and lack of educational opportunities are three of the main problems plaguing the women of Kenya and are just a few of many examples of how they are not regarded as equals among the men.

President Obama in an old family photo with his father and relatives.

President Obama in an old family photo with his father and relatives.

According to The Guardian and statistics from the United Nations, nearly 31 million school-aged girls and 32 million pre-teen/teenaged girls were out of school in 2013. Additionally, over one in four young girls in Kenya is forced to undergo genital mutilation.

President Obama used the recent debate in America over the Confederate flag as an example of how some traditions are meant to be undone before shifting the focus specifically to equality for women.

“Every country and every culture has traditions that are unique and help make that country what it is, but just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right; it doesn’t mean it defines your future.

Around the world there is a tradition of oppressing women and treating them differently and not giving them the same opportunities, and husbands beating their wives, and children not being sent to school. Those are traditions. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens. Those are bad traditions. They need to change.”

The President then directly addressed the women’s rights issues specific to Kenya, emphasizing the importance of realizing that not all cultural traditions should be accepted, continued or brought into the present simply because they are familiar.

“Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition: it holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence, there’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation, there’s no place in a civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children.

These traditions may go back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.”

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