Gender equality: Are women still on the light side of the seesaw?

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On Tuesday, Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day which is marked annually on March 8. The day serves as a platform and reminder to reflect on the challenges and progress that has been registered in regards to women empowerment.

Rwanda has done evidently well in regards to women empowerment, and more women have come out of their comfort zones to embrace the opportunities presented to them by the government.

The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity; there is hence still a long way to go and this calls for more efforts in order to attain this goal.

This year’s theme is “Planet 50-50: Step It Up For Gender Equality.”

Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the Deputy Governor Central Bank and Chairperson New Faces New Voices Rwanda Chapter, says that for the fight against gender inequality to be strengthened further, the Rwandan woman needs to be empowered economically.

She says, “If women are empowered economically, the outcome not only benefits the family but society at large. It also paves way to solve other challenges that impede gender equality.”

She, however, calls on women to be involved in the fight. “One of the things that might make this fight succeed is to strive for women to be in decision making positions not only in political positions but also in all other sectors like businesses.”

Dr Nsanzabaganwa stresses that it’s necessary that the presence of women is felt in decision making processes whether in businesses, education, security or other sectors.

“Taking Rwanda’s example of empowering women, letting them make decisions in different areas is one of the factors that are helping us develop together as Rwandans. Like how the President puts it, you cannot leave 52 per cent of the population and then say you are going to develop Rwandans.

She encourages all people to commit taking a step however small, as long as it aims at eliminating gender inequality.

Jackline Kamanzi, the Executive Secretary of National women Council, shares a similar view saying that empowering women economically is the way to eliminating all kinds of inequalities.

“The country’s level of fighting gender inequality is promising, that’s why I think by 2030 we will be on a different level, however, for this fight to succeed, women need to be economically empowered,” she says.

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Rwanda boasts  of the highest proportion of women MPs globally. (File photo)

She adds, “When a woman is economically empowered, other sectors will automatically flow because their stability gives them courage to face other areas like businesses, politics and others.”

According to Edouard Munyamariza, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), gender is not only a human rights issue but also an effective ingredient in sustainability.

He says that gender equality will never be achieved unless traditional norms are worked upon.

“Gender being a matter of perception, it’s the only way it can be promoted by changing norms, perceptions and attitudes. There’s need to work with men right from the beginning. Once we have transformed these understandings then we come up with a comprehensive plan that shows the role of each,” he advises.

“With the areas of ICT, business and TVET, I think I have seen an increasing number of women playing roles in ICT development in Rwanda but again we definitely need to see how the number increases.

When you go the private sector you will learn that there are still only a handful of women that own, manage enterprises or initiate income generating activities,” Munyamariza added.

There is also still a huge investment that is needed to transform perceptions about vocational skills such as carpentry, automobile, among others, because perceptions and taboos around that continually exclude girls and women.

“I would recommend two things, one is transformation of gender equality perceptions on trade and businesses because we still have men who think that women who go into business end up in promiscuity, this is still a problem. Second, there is need to increase funds,” Munyamariza says.

The Vice President for the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, Therese Dusabe, said that there is need to put in more effort in order to achieve the desired goals with the issue of women empowerment.

She says, “A lot has been done to empower women, but they have not yet gained the courage to grab their opportunities. Educating them will be of great help so that by 2030 we are able to achieve the desired goals.”

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Ladies showcase their products during the International Women’s Day celebrations in Nduba sector, Gasabo district. (D. Umutesi)

To her, women are not represented at all in business and there are also other domains such as mining, construction that women are not represented in. Yet those are sectors with lots of opportunities.

She puts emphasis on educating and training women so that they gain the necessary skills to venture into the sectors in which they are underrepresented.

What people say

John Nkurunziza says he has been observing many projects and policies on business, leadership, education, among others, by either government or private supporters.

He says these particular areas have helped women get out of poverty, compared to previous times.

Women’s voices are now heard in different institutions where for example during elections, they get space. They have for that reason built their confidence and are now performing well in their positions, he says.

“However in my observation, I have noticed that rural women are still in need of more empowerment programmes because few of them get into business, they are mainly in home or agricultural activities while women in cities are based in businesses,” Nkurunziza says.

He points out women are still small in number in technical and vocational courses; therefore ways of attracting them into the sector are still needed.

Margret Mukangwije applauds the government’s efforts to promote gender equality, saying that the country has come a long way.

“Women can now take part in the development of our country and this is all possible because of the government’s support. I call upon fellow women to stand up for themselves and use the opportunities presented to them to strive for better,” Mukangwije says.

Sharon Umurerwa is of the view that men too should stand up and fight for equality since this journey cannot be successful if only women participate. She says men should understand that women empowerment means well and it’s aimed at promoting the country’s development.

“Some men think that women are aiming at becoming superior which isn’t the case. Equality means both men and women having equal rights which is good for society as it can help fight vices such as domestic violence, among others,” Umurerwa says.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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I SAY: How can gender equality be achieved?

Belinda Nikuzwe, student

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Belinda Nikuzwe

In my opinion, the best way to achieve gender equality is to make it part of education. The government particularly should introduce different campaigns and initiatives, aiming at promoting gender equality, besides teaching young people to value their strengths and abilities regardless of their gender.

Janet Mutesi, student

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Janet Mutesi

Gender equality only appears to be an issue because some people tend to ignore the rights of others, and this gradually becomes gender-based harassment. As a way to fully achieve gender equality, this should not be tolerated and clear guidelines must be put in place to ensure the public understands the importance of this subject. It’s important to provide a platform where the affected individuals can raise a hand and say their problems.

Julian Natukunda, student

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Julian Natukunda

I believe women should be empowered to think positively and encouraged to maximise their potential. It’s obvious some women are not aware of their talents, abilities and rights. So by empowering them, you’re helping women to get acquainted to their privileges. Also, enlightenment about gender equality values and principles should be stressed. In brief, empowering and educating women about their privileges is the ultimate solution to gender equality concerns.

Flavia Uwera, student

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Flavia Uwera

Improving gender equality calls for all men to look at women as people with the same abilities who are capable of handling the same kind of work. More so, men should be sensitised on why violence towards their wives and females in general is wrong. It should be everyone’s duty to promote initiatives that aim at improving gender equality, and also give women the same opportunities as men.

Compiled by Dennis Agaba