BY JAMES BUYINZA
Gender is the difference between men and women within and between cultures. It is socially and culturally constructed and changes over time.
These differences are reflected in: Roles, responsibilities, access to resources, constraints, opportunities, needs, perceptions, views, etc. held by both women and men.
Thus, gender is not a synonym for women, but considers both women and men and their interdependent relationships.
Gender is a categorization based on sex that places people into two groups: Male and female. These two groups are often biologically, sociologically, psychologically, and physiologically influenced. Gender is based on four aspects: Assignment, Role, Identity, and Attribution.
In Rwanda, the patriarchal structure has moulded the life of women and men in society, giving them different roles and identity.
In most cases, this system determines the rules, interpretation of laws and religious norms, and enforceability of laws. It further determines who has access and control over resources.
The patriarchal system has not only impeded women’s rights but has also prevented societal development, the two factors being the backbone of development of any given society.
Gender equality is a constitutional principle enshrined in the Rwanda Constitution of 2003, stating that all Rwandans are born and remain free and equal in rights and duties.
Discrimination of any kind, based on sex, colour, tribe, or any other difference, is punishable by law.
The Government of Rwanda is committed to rebuilding a new society based on the principles of democracy and equal opportunities for all, women and men in particular. The Constitution ensures equality of all Rwandans and between women and men reflected by ensuring that women are granted at least 30 per cent of posts in decision making organs.
Consequently, a number of machineries both governmental and non-governmental have been set-up to promote gender equality.
The rampant gender-based discrimination hampering African women’s success in business must be tackled through policy and programmes, according to a new study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Gender discrimination can also be discouraged through activities that help to bring the discriminated groups together such as associations, cooperatives that recognize them as bread winners in their respective families.
The traditional roles of women need to be changed from housewives to more economic activities like engagement in businesses and taking over the dominant roles of men.
Future community work towards gender equality should take the form of a comprehensive strategy, embracing all community policies in its efforts to promote gender equality, either by adjusting their policies, pro-active intervention, or concrete actions designed to improve the situation of women in society.
The new approach needs to raise the profile of the wide range of existing community activities for the promotion of gender equality, and ensure their consistency by identifying overlaps.
A framework global strategy should also ensure that results can be monitored and disseminated more effectively.
While countries are pursuing gender equality policies, important discrepancies remain in implementation.
This is true for legislation, institutional mechanisms, specific initiatives and public awareness. Past programmes and initiatives at community level have assisted States and NGOs in developing more effective gender policies
The realization of economic development requires the participation of all citizens, women and men alike, to participate and be represented equally in the economy, decision-making, and in social, cultural and civil life.
The EU has a long-standing commitment of promoting gender equality, enshrined in the Treaty since 1957. The community legal framework ensures that women and men are equal before the law.
The promotion of gender equality is an important element we should embrace. The promotion and protection of women’s rights is an integral part of human rights policies and an important element of economic development in any single country.