In the Rwandan culture, collective participation in executing tasks is a cultural trait. For example in the ancient times, both men and women collectively did agricultural work. Although tasks deferred, they always worked together.
The men would clear and plow the land while the women engaged themselves in day-to-day farming activities, such as planting, weeding, and harvesting. Men were also responsible for overseeing livestock and were assisted by the youths.
During the time of our forefathers, men always had to do heavy jobs in the community such as such constructing homesteads while women managed the homestead and raised children with the help of the daughters.
Today, the essence of working together has not changed as depicted, in the monthly communal cleanings, popularly known as Umuganda. With this kind of sprit and culture embedded in a community, Rwanda has positively reaped economically, socially and politically from community work.
Rwandans have not abandoned the enthusiasm that entails collective participation in labour thus leading to successful programmes such as Imihigo and Vision 2020 that address issues such as nutrition, education, shelter, health insurance, justice and improved standards of living.
Although women were previously expected to only work within their homes and in the gardens, over the years, different polices that have empowered women to join the economic work force have taken root. And with changing mindsets, more men have actually realised that they can do household tasks.
A publication by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, ‘New study: Changing roles benefit men and women,’ by Janet Hyde, a UW-Madison psychology professor, states that contrary to longstanding theories of gender and psychology, women and men can benefit by taking on more than one traditional social role, such as worker or parent.
The article further states that, researchers found that employment was associated with improved health for both single and married women, regardless of their parental status, who had positive attitudes toward their jobs. Men who held multiple roles also had better health. Some data suggests that men’s family roles may be more critical to their psychological well-being than their wage-earning ones.
In fact, the drift between gender roles is rapidly evolving today. It is now a question of what needs to be done by whomever, whether women or men.