INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY: Rwanda's Journey of Women Empowerment
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International Women’s Day is a global day celebrated on every 8th of March, to reflect on the progress so far made with regards to empowerment of women as well as celebrating outstanding achievements registered by women of all walks of life around the globe. The celebrations are further a call for actions to expedite commitments to solve incumbent and future constraints to gender equality and empowerment of women.
This year’s international theme is “Planet 50-50: Step It Up For Gender Equality”. In Rwanda, the event will be celebrated under the theme: “step it up for gender equality, strive for women empowerment”.
The event to mark the celebration of the international women’s day will be officially launched on Tuesday the 8th of March 2016, followed by one month long activities across the country aimed at empowering women. Rwanda has remained at the forefront of promoting gender equality over the last 21 years after the 1994 genocide.
According to the global gender gap index 2014 that measured global gender disparities across 145 countries surveyed, Rwanda was ranked 7th globally by the world economic forum report and 2nd by the African Development Bank 2015 index.
The achievements registered in ensuring equality between men and women and empowering women specifically have been at the backdrop of enabling legal policy and institutional environment steered by good and visionary leadership. Economically, women have fully participated in and equally benefited from their country’s development process along with their male counterparts.
Women have had equal rights to own productive assets such as land hence enhancing their productive capacities and improving their welfare. Official reports on land holdings in Rwanda for example indicate that 26 per cent of land is owned by women, 18 per cent is owned by men, while 54 percent is shared by both spouses. Improved financial infrastructure along with stepped up awareness campaigns to embrace the culture of dealing with financial institutions, have scaled up women access to formal financial services.
The recently released FinScope report 2016, women access to formal financial services increased from 36.1 percent in 2013/14 to 63 percent in 2016. Budget allocation for the implementation of gender equality commitments has continued to increase over years. Gender responsive Planning and Budgeting (GRB) is a requirement in all sectors and districts and has been institutionalized through the promulgation of the Organic Budget Law, implemented and spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
With the legal provisions for affirmative action to uplift women representation in decision making positions at all levels, Rwanda has recorded the highest female representation in political decision making areas including; Parliament(64%), Senate(38%), judiciary(43%), Cabinet(40%) among others. Rwanda has taken special measures to improve social welfare of women and men as a strategy to reduce poverty.
Implementation of girl’s education policy, the universal twelve year basic education and technical vocational education training programmes has reduced gender imbalance in access and enrolment.
For instance in 2014, girls’ net enrolment rate reached 97% compared to 96% for boys, number of girls enrolled in TVET courses was at 43.7% compared to 56.3% of boys. Vigorous reforms were made in health sector that have resulted into notable impacts & achievements in improving women and men’s access to affordable and quality health care.
For instance, Universal Community Health Insurance scheme (Mutuelle de santé) that has rendered quality health care affordable for the poor, especially women, for a minimal annual contribution of less than US$ 5. initiatives such as biogas and energy efficient stoves (rondereza).
Other social protection interventions like Girinka Program (One Cow Per Poor Family) & Vision 2020 Umurenge program has continued to transform rural livelihood especially women who are majority vulnerable. Poor families that received cows through this program increased from 180,000 in 2006 to 350,000 in 2015.
Increased investment by the government in raising awareness on gender equality and the elimination of gender-based discrimination has resulted in significant improvement of people’s attitudes on the role of women and girls in society. Intensive campaigns and advocacy by the government in collaboration with other stakeholders has made progress in changing the patriarchal mindset.
Reaching The percentage of assisted delivery by skilled providers has increased from 39% in 2005 to 91% in 2014/15 hence leading to reduced maternal mortality rates from 1071/100,000 live births in 2000 to 210/100,000 live births in 2014/15. Rwanda has further achieved and even exceeded the 2015 target on access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. For instance proportion of population using improved drinking water source increased from 64.1% in 2000 to 84.8% in 2014.
Women in Rwanda have also benefited from clean energy sources out to men as partners in promoting gender equality has been one of the most efficient strategies for ensuring sustainability of gender equality gains in Rwanda through national and international campaigns like the HeForShe campaign where His Excellency Paul Kagame, the President of Republic of Rwanda was chosen as HeForShe Global Champion.
Throughout the reconstruction process, in the aftermath of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, women have played a key role in promoting peace, unity and reconciliation. From 2005-to May 2014, 446 women police officers have served in UN and AU peacekeeping missions and currently more than 200 female army officers are serving in various peacekeeping missions including Sudan, (Darfur, Khartoum), South Sudan, Haiti, Ivory Cost, Liberia, Mali & Central African Republic. Women have continued to play an important role in the community mediation and conflict resolution structures (Abunzi).
This has considerably contributed to cohesion in the communities and significantly reduced the number of cases reaching magistrates’ courts. Women make up 50% of community mediation and conflict resolution committee (Abunzi).
Rwanda has taken a zero tolerance stance in the fight against GBV and is committed to do so till the problem is eradicated. To achieve this, the government has instituted strict preventive and punitive measures alongside reintegration programs to support victims. Since 2009 to 2014, Twenty One (21) Isange One Stop Centers have been established and provide holistic 24 hour response to victims and survivors of GBV including safe shelter, medical, psychosocial counseling and medical-legal aid to the victims under one roof, so as to avoid re-victimization and the risk of spoiled evidence.
The government will continue to take an innovative step of including concrete targets to eradicate GBV in the performance contracts of relevant institutions including those in charge of security, justice, health, gender and governance. Other initiatives include establishment of Anti-GBV directorate & desk in the Rwanda National Police, Rwanda Defence Forces & anti-GBV and child protection committees at village level.
The growing realization of the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women in sustainable development facilitates rapid institutionalization of gender mainstreaming in development progammes. A strong constitutional, legal, policy and institutional frameworks supported by political will and commitment, have been central to Rwanda’s remarkable achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment.