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INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FGM
DEVELOPING A POLITICAL, LEGAL AND SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT TO IMPLEMENT THE MAPUTO PROTOCOL

Speech of the HON. CHIARU ALI MWAKWERE
Minister of Foreign Affairs


Your Excellencies, representatives of regional organisations;
Fellow Ministers;
Ambassadors;
Parliamentarians;
Representatives of civil society;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is with great pleasure that I take the floor to conclude the proceedings in this International Conference on Female Genital Mutilation, which the Republic of Kenya has had the honour to host. Here in Kenya, we are very aware of the importance of this conference for many reasons, but I will limit myself to highlighting just three. First and foremost, it is important for the subject matter under discussion and the critical issue of bringing an end to the practice of female genital mutilation.

At the Opening Ceremony to this Conference, His Excellency The Vice President, the Honourable Arthur Moody Awory, speaking on behalf of His Excellency The President, the Honourable Mwai Kibaki, made a solemn commitment in front of your that the Republic of Kenya will ratify the Maputo Protocol.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is my honour and privilege to fulfil Kenya’s will and commitment as expressed by the VP and proceed within the shortest possible time to the formal ratification and effective implementation. I would also echo the words of His Excellency delivered on Thursday, and his commitment to “encourage fellow members of the African Union to join Kenya in ratifying the Maputo Protocol, so that we can see its entry into force and empower women across the continent.” As Foreign Minister, I add my own commitment to make this part of our bilateral and multilateral priorities with our fellow African countries. Our common objective is that the Protocol enter into force without delay - and with no reservations to article 5 on FGM.

This is precisely because the Maputo Protocol is an important step forward for the human rights of women and girls, covering a broad range of topics aimed at improving the lives of women and girls and strengthening the protection and promotion of their rights, including the important issues of early marriage, violence and functional literacy, which are key priorities for young girls.

Second, that FGM is a human rights issue and is worthy of the attention of all of us. When I think that in some places this type of gathering could not happen because it is still not possible to talk about this issue out loud and without fear … let me just say it makes me even more proud to be Kenyan.

Finally -- and this was highlighted in the reports from the thematic sessions you had yesterday -- civil society and Government need to work together in order to reach our common goal. FGM is not only a problem for civil society, nor is it a problem only for Government, it is a problem for all of us, for both civil society and Government and it is up to us to work together to solve it. The cooperation between Government and civil society in all aspects of this Conference from its planning and preparation to its implementation is a model for the type of concerted action that is required to bring an end to FGM.

More remains to be done, as you all know very well, because millions of women and girls remain at risk, not only in many countries throughout the world but also here in Kenya. The fact that it is millions of women and girls makes it sound like a problem of scale. But in truth, we will only be able to say that we have reached our common goal when no girl is at risk of being mutilated, when those who speak out against FGM can do so without fear, when FGM becomes consigned to the history books.

Here in Kenya we are doing our part. We have the Children Act 2001, which prohibits the circumcision of girls under the age of eighteen as one mechanism to safeguard the personal life and bodily integrity of our daughters. We have a vibrant civil society, represented in this room by people from across Kenya who have come to participate in this important meeting and to take the strategies developed here back to their communities throughout the country. We as a Government support your efforts and exhort you to continue doing the often difficult but very necessary job you are doing.

I have realised, as I have been thinking about this issue and listening to the interventions here today, that if we are to succeed in our common goal of seeing an end to FGM, we need to think creatively and we need to think collectively. One thing I can say as Foreign Minister is that very often it can be of tremendous benefit to speak with colleagues in the same position or situation in different countries and learn from their experiences. Solutions that have worked elsewhere can be discussed, learnt from, adapted to your own situation. This is one reason I am pleased to see so many of you from different places here, interacting with Kenyans from across the country, both learning from one another. I hope that the contacts made during this conference will be maintained once you have returned home and that you will continue to share your experiences, both your triumphs as well as your difficulties.

I have taken careful note of the points and recommendations you have made in the reports from your thematic sessions. Representing the combined experience of so many years working on this issue, these reports will be of great use to those who are working on this issue in Kenya and elsewhere. I look forward to the final report that I am sure the Conference organisers will produce, so that the results of your deliberations in these thematic sessions can be disseminated as widely as possible to ensure that everyone can benefit from your collective thoughts on strategies for the development of a political, legal and social environment to implement the Maputo Protocol. I know that we will look closely at your recommendations as we ourselves work towards the implementation of the Maputo Protocol.

There is little else for me to say as I close these proceedings other than to offer our thanks to the organisers of this conference, the Office of the Vice-President and Ministry of Home Affairs, the NGO "No Peace Without Justice" and the local civil society organising committee, ably led by the Association of Media Women in Kenya.

I would like to congratulate all of you on a job well done and wish you the best of luck in your work when you return home, be it in Kenya or abroad. Finally, I would like to say a special thank you to the Honourable Emma Bonino. Madam, we have been very pleased to welcome you to Kenya and we would like to take this opportunity to extend to you and the members of No Peace Without Justice, as well as to our friends here from abroad, a standing invitation to return to Kenya. I know you have all been very busy working on this important issue, so let me take the liberty of hoping that when you next visit, you will find more time to experience our beautiful country, our rich culture and our tradition.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I now declare this Conference closed.

 


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