Healing the wounds of Genocide through economic empowerment

She talks of surviving multiple gang rapes, running at night in fear of losing her life, going for days without food or water and witnessing the death of her entire family.

She talks of surviving multiple gang rapes, running at night in fear of losing her life, going for days without food or water and witnessing the death of her entire family.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD), Rwandan women too, participate in commemorating the event, whose theme is: “Women and men united to end violence against women and girls.”

Rwanda is a small country on the world map, but it has been famous in the previous years for its 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, in which over a million people perished. Today, the country is recovering from the deep scars and quickly moving on to rebuild a stable society.

Thanks to the current government, which has empowered women with the right to freely participate in all aspects of life, and the emancipation drive being led by women.

During the genocide, women as a vulnerable group suffered tremendously: physically, emotionally and spiritually. And up to now, many are still nursing their wounds

Chantelle Mukakamanzi, 46, sits alone on the veranda of her mud- house in Gikondo, a suburb of Kigali city, holding her cheek to tell a depressing story.

She talks of surviving multiple gang rapes, running at night in fear of losing her life, going for days without food or water and witnessing the death of her entire family.

And she is not alone, but thanks to the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, for its work, Mukakamanzi says that she forgave the perpetrators of her tragedy and she is now looking forward to owning her future.

The government has put forward strategies to stop gender based violence, for example empowering the women especially in rural areas to get more involved in development projects, this is done by empowering them economically.

Currently, there are many NGOs and institutions collaborating with the government to empower women.

For example Women for Women International (WWI), a remarkably active and innovative NGO, which has already helped over 24,000 Rwandan women.

The women are assisted through a year-long programme of education empowerment through job skills training, life skills, and direct aid which is used for women to start small business initiatives.

Recently, the organization launched a pilot project called Commercial Integrated Farming Initiative (CIFI), to train 3,000 women in organic farming within a period of three years, in Kayonza district.

“This is economic empowerment for economic development and is an inspiration to the women, individual families and to their relevant communities,” says Berra Kabarungi the country director of WWI.

Through education and economic empowerment, women have access to bank services, and over 99 percentage report to have opened savings account.

Kabarungi emphasized that through CIFI women will access income and job opportunities which is a tool to gender balance and economic development.

However, as the country strives to reinforce its women’s empowerment drive in the economy and society, one may wonder how Rwanda will empower its women to fully participate in the politics of the day?

Rwanda is considered a model of great female opportunity. Its new constitution mandates that women hold at least 30 percent of all positions in government and other decision-making positions.

The 2003 elections trumped even this ambitious goal, the swearing in of a new legislature which has lead to approximately 56.25 percent females in the parliament.

Today, a good percentage of women are involved in developmental activities than ever before, but a persistent gap in status, job security, wages and education between women and men is contributing to the “feminization of working poverty”, according to a 2007 report by the International Labour Office (ILO) issued for International Women’s Day.

Despite some form progresses, many Rwandan women are still fixed in the lowest paying jobs, often in the informal economy sector with insufficient legal protection, little or no social protection, and a high degree of insecurity.

The national report of Rwanda for the Fourth World Conference on Women, September 1995, Beijing, China, specifies five priority areas of action.

Each include specific strategic objectives and elaborates strategic measures to be taken in view of supporting women’s full integration in the development process.

Therefore, to increase on women’s productive capacity, there should be access to capital, resources, and train them on technology and provide them with technical assistance.

lindaonly2005@yahoo.com

 

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