First Lady Jeannette Kagame, on Sunday, September 3, attended the official launch of the campaign that advocates for gender equality in healthcare, especially mental health. ALSO READ: How Gender-Based Violence affects mental health of the victim Initiated by the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), ‘We Are Equal Campaign’ calls for urgent action to advance gender equity and to close the gender gap in Africa. The year-long campaign, launched in partnership with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBD), will have its focus on mental health and Non-Communicable Diseases raising awareness about the importance of NCDs prevention and early detection. The launch was marked by youth who were joined by the First Lady and some namers of Kwita Izina as they did sporting exercises during the car-free day, to note the importance of exercises in fighting NCDs. “Closing the gender gap in Africa is not an act of charity for girls and women, but an act of justice and common sense that will benefit us all,” states OAFLAD. ALSO READ: Rwanda's eight landmark achievements in gender equality Yvan Butera, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health, said that it is important for Rwandans and Africans in general to have positive mental health while living in a healthy body. He called upon all stakeholders to make steps towards advancing gender equality in all aspects of life while countering any hindrance or setback of what has already been achieved. “Gender inequality has the most effects on women whether as gender-based violence or any other form of inequality, posing heavy impact on their mental health. This is why we urge all Rwandans to create safe spaces and build their families in safe environments for better outcomes.” Butera noted that the health ministry has put in place measures aimed at addressing mental health issues since among the prominent challenges people are faced with, include having a mental health specialist at every health center across the country. “We encourage individuals and families to take care of their mental health and fight the stigma against people who are dealing with the issue because it is something normal and anyone can be challenged with mental health issues such as depression,” he added. ALSO READ: Youth urged to break silence on mental health issues Earlier this year, the health ministry announced that it plans to conduct an in-depth assessment of the state of mental health following several reports of increasing numbers of people battling mental illness. In October 2022, Ndera Neuro-Psychiatric Teaching Hospital reported that it had received 7,817 patients battling depression compared to 1,743 recorded in 2021.