Girls and young women were empowered to make decisions, promote gender equality, and know their roles in society during the National Girls Leaders’ Summit 2023 on September 21, in Kigali. ALSO READ: Gender equality: Activists on Rwanda’s progress, lingering challenges The meeting organized by World Vision Rwanda in partnership with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, among others, intends to shape leaders of tomorrow by investing in the girls’ potential today. Valentine Uwamariya, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, said: “We want to urge young leaders, to participate in gender equality across all sectors including families, institutions they belong to and work.” ALSO READ: Women Deliver Conference ends with lasting impact Uwamariya called upon girls not to fear competition in public and private places, locally and internationally. She said that gender equality isn’t only a concern for women alone, but an issue for men too. Which is why under the Rwanda MenEngage Network (RWAMNET) programme, men and boys are involved in gender equality. ALSO READ: Leave no girl behind: Society’s role in reintegration of teen mothers “In our culture, men used to take the lead in everything, and women were left behind. It is for this reason therefore that men ought to be at the forefront in empowering women,” she said. Beatrice Ekallam, the Resource Development Manager at World Vision Rwanda, said that the summit that happens every year provides a platform for girls and young women to know their worth, and role in society and shun stereotypes of dependence, vulnerability, or incapability. She stressed that such stereotypes hinder them from realizing their full potential. ALSO READ: Varsities urged to promote gender equality “It is our responsibility to pave the way forward by empowering all women, especially young girls, to embrace opportunities and possibilities beyond the limits of their imagination,” she said. She highlighted a few tested approaches to support the empowerment of young women leaders such as refusing to stay in a box as they have support from other successful women, breakthrough and rising by uplifting each other, being the leaders they have always yearned to be, and embracing their feminine energy. She encouraged young people to influence relationships, by exploring possibilities through new ideas and innovative thinking, value empathy and collaboration, possess the Queen Bee phenomenon by breakthrough cultural experiences of competition rather than collaboration, and most importantly, invest in women. Ekallam advised male and female participants to be motivated and driven by their aspirations to aim higher in academics and career ambitions. She encouraged them to share their experiences, and hear from mentors, especially celebrated leaders – mostly women. “Currently we are implementing a strategic framework, which runs for five years since 2021 that entails three programmes, for instance, education, resilience and likelihood, and health, nutrition and WASH.” Under these programs, she added, World Vision has specific programs that promote the empowerment of girls to enroll and stay in school, among others. In terms of sustainability, she said, World Vision believes in partnership, “we work closely with different government ministries, alongside diverse government policies, and frameworks, development partners and frameworks, and local actors.” “The summit has allowed me to learn, partner, and network with other student leaders, and organizations that promote gender equality and gender-based violence,” said Aloysie Icyizihiza Rwamucyo, a member of Girls’ Leaders Forum (GLF) Rwanda, and graduate of UR Huye. She noted that her takeaway from the meeting was that self-confidence is key for girls and young women to take up places in leadership. Rwamucyo said GLF Rwanda is devoted to girls’ empowerment. It was founded in 2012 at the National University of Rwanda and is operational in 25 higher learning institutions and five secondary schools in Rwanda and currently has more than 300 active members. The 2003 Constitution of Rwanda, revised in 2015, constitutes the main reference for the entire legal reform to ensure women’s fundamental human rights and freedoms. The Constitution guarantees equal rights between men and women as affirmed by a requirement to have a minimum quota of 30 percent of all decision-making positions reserved for women in public institutions or organs.