First Lady Jeannette Kagame has hailed the launch of the ‘Africa Gender Initiative’, a $50 million 10-year fund that aims to mobilize resources towards gender equality and women leadership across the continent. Launched in Kigali, at the sidelines of the ongoing Africa Philanthropist Forum, Mrs Kagame said that the targeted funding could even be exceeded. “And why not, there is no price tag to the liberation of women and in particular their financial freedom,” she told a packed audience, at the Marriott Hotel, on Monday evening. While it may seem like an ambitious ask, the First Lady said that it was possible. She pointed out that with appropriate policies and legal framework, with determined political will, with collaboration between philanthropies and governments, with beneficiary involvement at the core of strategy design, when people gather again 10 years from today, to celebrate the impact of the African gender initiative, there is a guarantee that the commitment will have been worth every single effort. “Today we can build a time machine together, we can bring 2072 as a year where women can be economically equal to men at last, to a much nearer and more immediate future.” No change for social injustice Mrs Kagame also hinted at social injustice standing no chance against the resolve of Africa’s children. She likened the vice with a ‘somewhat regrettable story. “It's about a girl, she was a normal sweet child, with great ambition like many African children. Her boarding school was quite far from her home.” But while the bus drove others to school, Mrs Kagame said, it dropped the girl off halfway into the journey. “She would then walk, come rain and sunshine, she would go to her destination depleted, feet blistered, shaking with cold and at times with wet clothes.” “And one day, she cut her feet on splintered branches on her track to school, and she soon developed a fever.” According to the story, Mrs Kagame said the girl had to be hospitalized and the infection was so advanced that she was in need of lengthy treatment. “But she was only prescribed half the treatment. The doctor claimed she was simply not entitled to the other pills despite needing them greatly.” “Some say the fever took her to sleep while others said that it drove her insane.” Mrs Kagame went on to say that the details matter not, for all we know enough of this child’s unfortunate story. “And her name is gender gap.” “And she bears the face of this child’s unfortunate story.” This, the first lady said, comes at a time when ‘The Mackenzie Global Institute’ reported that the African gender parity score now stands at 0.58 and the gender gap is older than all of us at the same time said to outlive all of us. The economic gender gap is focused by the World Economic Forum in 150 years, all long enough for currently unborn children to have borne great grandchildren. “We can only imagine how many women by then will have known a cycle of poverty and powerlessness from income disparity and financial dependency in their homes.” She added, “The gender gap, like all structural oppression can, and does kill. And this is literally and metaphorically. But fortunately, we dedicated advocacy and the financial resources. “With tireless efforts from greater education, with equal empowerment of our boys and girls, this gap can’t shrink to nothing less.” “To echo the words of my friend Prof. Senait, we must invest in individuals, institutions, and systems.” This is the groundwork to the real revolution in gender parity that we require, Mrs Kagame asserted. “The sustainable impact that might allow us to dream of a world where philanthropy will only be about the love for people and no longer the need to save people.” Rwanda’s journey to close the gap The First Lady also shared Rwanda’s experience, citing that today, the country refuses to allow its women and girls to be unloved, unprotected and unheard. She said that the country grants equal land ownership and inheritance to women in legal marriages, and equal inheritance rights to daughters and sons. “But we know the journey ahead is lengthy,” she added. However, the awareness, Mrs Kagame highlighted, had led to many gains for women’s rights. For instance, 30 percent quota in all decision making positions, 61 percent women legislators in parliament, 58.6 percent women civil servants, and 50 percent women judiciary as well as gender responsive budgeting in both the public and private sectors. Today, in Rwanda, equality as a principle and gender equality in particular has been an important mitigator of the gender gap. “Therefore, I believe that many of you may understand that the beginning of my foundation, Imbuto Foundation, had to draw inspiration from the new dawn of our nation.” “We have together with our partners come a long way in providing some effective solutions to these issues.” According to her, from the very first day as a foundation, Imbuto had the fortune of living in a country that had traced its pathway to success, to a more inclusive, progressive, harmonious and equal society. Mrs Kagame also commended Tsitsi Masiyiwa, the Africa Philanthropy Forum, citing her unwavering commitment in bettering the future of Africa’s daughters. “In your determination, all of us here can draw faith that gender parity is ours to claim, ours to live,” she said.