Hundreds of women’s rights activists and four First Ladies from Africa gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on February 5 to call for an end to the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). On the first United Nations-backed International Day Against Female Genital Mutilation and Other Harmful Traditional Practices, Chantal Campaore, First Lady of Burkina Faso, told the New York Times that FGM is “the most widespread and deadly of all violence victim
izing women and girls in Africa.” In fact, the World Health Organization has estimated that between 100 and 140 million girls and women in 28 countries have undergone some type of the so-called “female circumcision.” Two days after the First Ladies spoke out against FGM, it was reported that hundreds of Kenyan girls from the Rift Valley Province ran away from home to escape FGM. According the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the girls have been hiding in churches in southwestern Kenya because the authorities were not responding the girl’s requests for help.
While FGM was formally outlawed in Kenya in 2001 with the introduction of the Children’s Act, the practice remains widespread in many rural parts of the country. A 1998 survey shows that 38% of Kenyan women between the ages of 15 and 49 years old had undergone FGM, according to BBC News.