United States President Barack Obama on Monday said one of the best yardsticks for measuring a country’s development is how it treats its women.
Obama said this while addressing 500 African youth attending the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in the United States.
Six Rwandans are attending the six-week exchange, training and networking programme that is underway at different US universities.
The African fellows are undergoing training in three tracks; business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management.
In between their courses, the youth on Monday gathered in Washington, D.C. for a summit with President Obama.
The Rwandans who are attending include Colombe Ituze, a fashion designer at INCO Icyusa; Doreen Karake, a legal analyst at Rwanda Development Board; and Gilbert Mucyo; a communications researcher at the Office of the Government Spokesperson.
Others are Marcel Mutsindashyaka, the founder & CEO of Umuseke IT Ltd; Nadia Hitimana, a health and hygiene officer with sustainable health enterprises; and Vincent Kalimba, a senior business advisor with Technoserve Inc.
“One of the measures of a country’s success is how it treats its women…If you educate and empower a mother, then you, are educating the children, said President Obama urged future African leaders to ensure that the continent shuns some of its past traits to create a future more accessible to women.
“If you try to duplicate traditions that were based on an entirely different society, it’s not going to work, so as a continent, you have to update and create new traditions,” he said.
One of the traditions that Obama strongly castigated is the female genital mutilation which he described as outdated.
“I think that’s a tradition that is barbaric and should be eliminated. It is a form of violence against women.”
Meanwhile, during the session, President Obama announced the renaming of YALI to Mandela Washington Fellowship in honour of the late South African President Nelson Mandela.
“The spirit of YALI reflects Madiba’s optimism, his idealism, his belief in what he called ‘the endless heroism of youth.”
“We’re launching a whole new set of tools to help empower young Africans through our YALI Network,” he said.
Mandela died in December last year aged 95. He is remembered for having stood against oppression of black South Africans– for which he was jailed and spent 27 years in jail under Apartheid, South Africa’s former system of white minority rule, before eventually leading his country through a difficult transition to democracy.
In 1994, he became the first democratically elected leader of a post-Apartheid South Africa.
The meeting between President Obama and next generation of young African leaders came days to the US-Africa Leaders Summit scheduled for August 4-6 in Washington.
About 50 African leaders are expected to attend what the White House says will be the largest gathering any US President has held with African Heads of State and Government.