Kate Kendel



Kate Kendel was born April 25th 1959 in Sierra Leone. At the age of 8, she had a heart surgery at the ADRA University Hospital in Loma Linda, California. After the surgery, she lived with Danish-Norwegian forster parents in Scandinavia and in Sierra Leone. At the age of 16, she returned to her biological father. Shortly after she was genitally mutilated. Some years later, by the help of her former forster parents, she was given a scolarship and came to Denmark. Kate Kendel has a formal education as a social worker and has lived in Denmark since 1978.

In 2006 she was given The Human Rights Award by Amnesty International & Salaam DK for the film “The Secret Pain”.



The social worker Kate Kendel, born April 1959 in Sierra Leone as Kadiatu Suma, passed away on Wednesday 22nd of July 2009 at her home in Denmark, which became Kate's new fatherland during the last thirty years of her turbulent life.

Kate represented the most distinguished characteristics in the two cultures who met deep in her weakened heart, who's surgery in early childhood, was the practical reason for Kate's shifting between Africa end Europe throughout her life. She was a loving and considerate judge of character, who always was ready to offer help and advice others with the particular wisdom that a dramatic life had provided her. At the same time, Kate was an entrepreneur with great personal courage, analytic abilities and strategic accuracy.

Kate became both a builder of bridges and a revolutionary in her long struggle against the traditions for female circumcision, which is widely spread in Sierra Leone and also became Kate's fate in the earliest spring of her youth. Kate represented a deep insight as well as an anger, and that combination gave Kate's personality a beauty and an edge that radiated from her appearance and awarded her with respect in a wide variety of circles.

I met Kate in 2001 and together with Director Mette Knudsen we became the small trefoil that, over the following years, simply INSISTED on realizing our film project about Kate's life and struggle against female genital mutilation (FGM). And we succeeded in every way: "The Secret Pain" became a moving documentary in which Kate bravely lets the world into the tragedy of her life, and, on a voyage to her native Sierra Leone, confronts the traumatic events of her past.

Kate says late in the film: "To come and personally meet the Digbaes and dare break into their lodge and talk with them about issues that normally are taboo, has enriched my life ..It is like a heavy burden I have carried for thirty years quietly has been lifted off my head and put to the floor, so I now can fly and think clearly. Because I have found out that these people has destroyed my life only because they are ignorant and poor".

Kate came powerful through on the screen in various cinemas in Denmark and the major newspapers were unanimous in their praise. The film received awards and attracted attention on film festivals many places in the World. Later it got a second life that is only allotted to very few films: It was translated and re-recorded into several African languages and are now circulating throughout the vast continent of Africa. Educating and provoking debate in villages, health clinics and hospitals. This was the prime purpose of the film in Kate's perspective.

Unfortunately Kate will never see the complete fulfilment of her vision. It is a long walk, and the job of getting the film out to the front in the battle against circumcision lies so much heavier on our shoulders, now our most distinguished ambassador for the film is not amongst us anymore.

All honour to her memory

Simon Plum, cinematographer and producer
July 24th 2009