It is clear that the Great Lakes Region faces many challenges ranging from poverty and epidemics to conflicts.
The conflicts have cost the region immensely in terms of development, resources and human resource.
In Rwanda, the effects of the Genocide are still fresh in many people’s minds.
There are still cases of trauma among genocide survivors while some families of genocide survivors are yet to get shelter over their heads.
What is more critical however, is the fact that where as violent conflicts affect both women and men, women in Rwanda probably bore the brunt of the genocide more than their male counterparts.
This is common wherever there is a violent conflict, largely because of the women’s biological make up - as most war crimes target women.
They are subjected to rape, defilement, and forced marriages, all of which expose them to HIV.
However, rather than dwell on male domination and women subordination, as we celebrate this year’s Women’s Day, there is need to highlight the positive contributions Rwandan women have made towards peace building.
This is in recognition of the fact that Rwandan women have in their capacity stood up against conflicts in order to foster peace.
Their success in this noble cause, underscores the fact that women can take charge of the situation, not for their own security, but also to protect their male compatriots, in a country that many men as a result of the genocide.
Most recently, the joint military operation of Rwanda-Congo against FDLR rebels, negotiated by among others the Foreign Affairs Minister, Rosemary Museminali, is a clear manifestation of the Rwandan women’s determination to make peace prevail in the country, by tackling threats to the current peace.
The role of Fatuma Ndangiza, as the Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) furhter testifies to women’s readiness to contribute to peace building in Rwanda.
Ndangiza has played a pivitol role in uniting a society which had been deeply divided along ethnic lines.
Other women like Rose Kabuye, the Director of State Protocol, and Senator Aloisea Inyumba’s contribution in the liberation struggle cannot be underestimated. There is no word to best describe their role if not bravery.
Previously, Inyumba served as the Executive Secretary of the NURC, where she played a key role in the unity and reconciliation initiatives.
And as a member of the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace in Rwanda, her role in peace building in the aftermath of genocide cannot be over emphasised.
Most conflict resolution researchers have previously acknowledged the role of women in conflict resolution from the traditional Africa which are in most cases not highlighted.
According to Mariam Agatha Chinue, a Lecturer Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Kenyatta University,in Kenya, women can play a pivotal role in resolving conflicts.
In her paper, the “Role of women in peace building and conflict resolution in African traditional societies”, she highlights the historical contribution of women in fostering peace and resolving conflicts in different African societies.
The women’s cultural role in the different cultural settings, according to Chinue, can resolve conflicts.
Women are regarded as peace makers. This crucial role is pegged on the fact that women are considered educators - who cultivate peace loving notions among children.
To prevent future conflicts, it calls for parents to bring up children as peace lovers. Mothers as primary care givers therefore play a vital role in role of instilling these virtues at an early age.
In Rwanda, old women just like men, are regarded people of integrity who are respected in society and are used to resolve conflicts.
The traditional courts commonly referred to as Gacaca which have played a key role in trying a backlog of genocide related cases, is headed by a woman, Domitilla Mukantaganzwa.
This is another example of the capacity of Rwandan women in conflict resolution. Mukantaganzwa’s role like those of other women can be rated on similar scale of bravery and resilience – which will remain in the annals of this country for posterity.
The aforementioned women and others whose names have not been mentioned here are testimony that women are playing a big role in conflict situations in post genocide Rwanda.