Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank you for the opportunity to speak at this congress.
I am very proud to be on African soil.
Today, we have met here in Nairobi for a very special occasion :
African leaders decided to stop the cruel practice of female genital mutilation – FGM.
Kenya has taken a first step and will ratify the Maputo Protocol, a powerful instrument to abolish FGM.
I deeply welcome this decision as UN goodwill ambassador against FGM – and especially as a woman from Africa.
Kenya will join the list of countries that already banned FGM by law. I congratulate you for taking this step.
But still : It is only a first step. You all know that the situation for woman in Africa is simply unfair. According to the World Bank, woman in our countries produce more than 80 percent of the food, and do more than 90 percent of the work.
But still, in many African countries they are denied the right to own land.
And in total, they own less than five percent of the wealth. They are the ones that keep our societies going, that care for the food, the children and unity.
But our societies fail to recognise their rights.
In many African countries, a woman is worth nothing.
You can sell her.
You can buy her.
You can use her and you can disown her.
Most girls and women have no access to education.
Most girls and women have no access to the health service.
In sub-Saharan Africa, one woman out of 16 dies during pregnancy and giving birth.
This is not just a natural thing : In Europe, where there is good health service, it is only one out of almost 4.000.
FGM is one part of this situation – and it is the most disturbing and the horrendous part of it. FGM ruins the lives of the girls and women affected.
Many die from it, and the ones that survive suffer serious health problems for the rest of their lives.
We are talking about more than 90 percent of the women in some African countries. The UN estimates that two million girls are mutilated every year in Africa. That means only today, 8.000 girls have to undergo this criminal act. 8.000 tomorrow.
8.000 lives are ruined day by day.
Let me be very clear on this :
FGM is not a tradition.
FGM is not culture.
FGM has nothing to do with religion.
FGM is nothing but a crime.
This has to change. And the change is in our hands.
Leaders of Africa, where are you when your children are crying ?
Leaders of Africa, where are you when your children are starving ?
Leaders of Africa, where are you when your children are dying ?
Today we take the first step for a new change. The Maputo protocol and a law are great first steps.
But they are not enough : Because as long as the mind of people does not change, nothing else will ever change. What we need is an intensive awareness campaigning.
Mama Africa you have given us so much wealth, so much natural richness and beauty.
Your strength and beauty stands until the test of time. They used you and misused you.
There is no place like you. I yawn for you and I belong to you, but Africa needs a new spirit.
I have a dream :
A dream of Africa where we do not fight and kill each other, but support each other in solidarity.
I have a dream of Africa where woman are treated as equals to men.
Where woman get the love and respect they deserve.
Leaders of Africa, this change is in your hands.
We are taking a first step for it today.
Waris Dirie's speech in front of African presidents and politicians in Nairobi, Kenya.