A regional women’s rights pressure group, Consultative Umbrella of Women’s Associations in the Great Lakes Region (COCAFEM-GL), has called for more advocacy on women’s rights.
“Just like all societies with a history of conflict, ours too has not been spared by domestic and gender-based violence. It is the reason we need to collectively fight against these vices,” Gilbert Katabika, the group’s executive secretary said. He was speaking to journalists in Kigali last week.
“In 2011, the heads of state of member countries of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region agreed that each country had to start a one-stop centre to handle gender-based violence issues. However, it is only Rwanda that has done so,” he added.
A member of COCAFEM-GL, Pascasie Barampama, noted that there was still room for improvement in Rwanda even as the country had made significant progress as far as gender mainstreaming is concerned.
She said COCAFEM-GL received 3,973 cases of GBV in the region in 2013 alone and that only 15 of them were of men being on the receiving side.
“Many people in our region are still convinced that spouse battering is a normal disciplinary measure. Some women actually believe that when their husband does so, then it’s a sign of love. Part of our mission is to end that mentality,” she said.
Barampama also decried financial challenges that limit their organisation from accessing certain areas in the region.
“So far in Rwanda, we only have presence in two provinces (Northern and Southern), but we hope to cover the whole country when our finances grow in the future,” she said.
Katabika said COCAFEM-GL’s target in the future is having the capacity to handle at least 39,730 GBV cases in the region annually.
Eugenie Ingabire, the Director of Gender and Youth Department at the Rwanda Network of People Living with HIV/Aids, called for mass sensitisation to ensure attitude and behaviour change.
“It is common to find a GBV victim keeping quiet instead of reporting to concerned authorities so that their problem can be handled,” she said.