Three years ago, Annette Mukagasana’s husband Gerald was the family’s sole bread winner. She has unpleasant memories about the time. ‘Gerald was always so reluctant to leave money, and when he did, it was rarely enough.’
She laments. “We argued about each and every expense in the home and in most cases, a quarrel that started slowly would end up into a physical fight,” she narrates.
In an effort to free herself from this economic bondage, Mukagasana joined one of the cooperatives that makes “peace baskets.”
Today she is a self-employed happy mother and wife. “We quarrel less especially over money. I also contribute to our household’s needs,” she beams.
Although women have made substantial progress in closing the gender gap in managerial and professional jobs, their unemployment rates are still higher than they are for men.
This aspect has still taken them a back as they continue to be referred to as “vulnerable members of society,” who also contribute so little economically.
In Rwanda’s case, women have already taken a bigger share of political representation by occupying a bigger 56.7 percent representation in parliament however about only 38 percent are economically empowered.
As a result, the government under the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion has focused on economic empowerment of women as a way of increasing their participation in the country’s development process but also as key to help fight Gender Based Violence (GBV) through addressing the interlinkages between their state of poverty and their vulnerability.
“GBV can sprout as a result of financial constraints. It is easy for a man to mistreat his wife simply because he is the family’s only source of income. Economic liberation however enables women to speak up and report cases of GBV. Intellectually, they also begin to fight for their rights,” Dr. Jean d’ Arc Mujawamariya, the Minister for Gender and Family Promotion told The New Times.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), once women and girls access social and financial outlays their status will raise and in the long run, improved living conditions will have tremendous multiplier effects.
Such effects involve increased dignity and further exploitation of available economic opportunities thus enabling them to reach their potential and contribute fully to their communities.
The Beijing Platform for Action, in its paragraph 156 states that “barriers to ownership of or means of access to land, natural resources, capital, credit, technology and other means of production, as well as wage differentials, contribute to impeding the economic progress of women.”
In this regard therefore, the government has increased accessibility of financial services to women. Most microfinance institutions target female clients while various cooperatives also promote women economic empowerment.
The Rwandan peace baskets are also among the leading poverty eradication business through which women support their families. As women participate in this activity, government through its cooperative task force arm has encouraged formation of such cooperatives such as Gahaya Links, Duterimbere and Uduseke cooperatives among many.
In a bid to support women in the private sector, the Private Sector Federation (PSF) through its chamber for women entrepreneurs has also embarked on intensive capacity building as a way of equipping Rwandan women with business management skills.
This is seen through the establishment of Business Development Service (BDS) centres in all provinces of the country to equip all business people (including women) with up to date business skills and services.
Annual national round tables that are also specifically organized to boost the role of women entrepreneurs in the development process of the country are platforms through which most women acquire credit grants that promote their businesses.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is committed to actions that attack poverty and powerlessness, especially among women.
About half of the UNFPA programmes have developed strategies to provide women with economic opportunities.
The organisation strongly supports addressing the feminisation of poverty through the integration of gender concerns in macro economic policy and in poverty reduction strategies.
Economic empowerment of women can help lower GBV levels as women compete favourably with men in a developing world.
Such prosperity opens their minds intellectually and can act as a platform through which GBV cases are addressed.