Rwandan women still lag behind in decision-making both socially and economically.
Annie Kairaba, the chief executive officer of Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development, said yesterday that although Rwanda has done pretty well in advancing the rights of women and involving them in politics, women are not yet at a level where they can equally make important decisions.
She was speaking in Kigali during a conversation on the International Women’s Day observed globally yesterday.
“We have the highest number of women representatives of any parliament in the world, women are also well represented in other leadership organs, but men are still the decision makers,” she said.
Kairaba said that there is a need for a new strategy to empower women economically such as affording them equal opportunities to finance.
“If you look at investments in agriculture, its men who are participating. Women are in the informal sector where they are even struggling,” she said. “In Ethiopia, they have a special programme for women to access loans in banks. We can have such.”
She argued that women in many developed countries were able to advance because of economic independence, which she said is still lacking in Rwanda.
Kairaba said a special-purpose programme should be put in place to help finance women businesses.
The conversation, organised by Never Again Rwanda (NAR), was held under the theme; ‘Transforming Women’s Lives: Best Practices and Gaps in Rwanda’.
Juliet Curira, a woman from Nyamata, Bugesera District, said gender-based violence is still prevalent in homes partly due to cultural norms.
“We have people who respect culture and traditions more than the laws. Some women still fear to speak in meetings with men. These are social issues that we need to address if gender equality is to really be realised,” she told participants.
Kairaba said that investment in educating women on how to start and run businesses is a prerequisite, adding that banking trends show that women have potential to run big businesses if they were empowered.
A 2016 NAR study on participatory governance highlighted low involvement of women in the local levels of governance processes.
It also cited low involvement of women in academia, major businesses, and construction sector.
Eric Mahoro, the director of programmes at NAR, said while the country should celebrate the achievements made in efforts to empower women, there was urgent need to bridge the existing gaps.
“We see gaps and this is why we are engaging different actors to help design strategies for improvement. Women also need platforms through which they can speak about and engage on the challenges they face,” he said.