[FEATURED] A campaign to curb violence against women kicks off in Rwamagana District

Residents of Gishari Sector in Rwamagana District who turned up in large numbers. / Joseph Mudingu

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) together with the Chinese Embassy this week started a sensitizing campaign on women rights, through drama and theatre, to create awareness and prevent gender based violence. The National Human Rights Commission is entrusted with the responsibility of promoting and protecting human rights in the country.

The campaign, that is going to run for four years, was launched in Gishari sector in Rwamagana district on February 5, 2019. It will feature road shows and theatre teaching about women rights and gender based violence and will extend to all the districts of Rwanda.

The aim of the campaign is to sensitize the public about how women are able to claim and exercise their economic, social and universally recognized rights in Rwanda not just as women, but as full members of the human race.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Chairperson of the NHRC, Madeleine Nirere, said that Rwanda has made a strong commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and that the new campaign will help push the commitment further.

“It is good to see the turn up today at the launch of this sensitization campaign and we believe that, with more awareness, this violence that hinders development is going to be tackled. This is going to be achieved because Rwanda has already ratified and domesticated most international and regional laws that promote the rights of women,” said Nirere.

Chairperson of the NHRC, Madeleine Nirere addressing residents. / Joseph Mudingu

She added that women are human beings just as men are and that they are guaranteed the same rights as men by the 1948 Declaration on Human Rights and other international conventions.

“In 2018 alone, the Commission received 2,086 cases resulting from conflicts in homes and this shows that we urgently need to sensitize the public to stop the violence against women,” Nirere said.

The Mayor of Rwamagana district, Mbonyumuvunyi Rajab, thanked the NHRC for their efforts in fighting gender based violence, uplifting women rights and choosing to launch the campaign in his district.  “Though Rwamgana district was chosen for the launch of the campaign, it is not ranked as one that is most affected by gender violence. However, I thank the Commission for its efforts in the fight for women rights and our district to kick start the campaign,” he said.

According to the NHRC 2017/2018 Annual Report, the number of cases brought to One Stop Centres for treatment and follow-up as a result of defilement totaled 266. Of the 266, 91 of them, representing 34. 2 per cent were pregnant and 10 of them were infected with sexually transmitted diseases. 132 of them were able to report the crime immediately while 71 were only reported when pregnant and 63 reported much later.

An actor during a theatrical show sensitizing the residenst about women rights and gender based violence. / Joseph Mudingu

Of the cases reported, over 35 per cent of the victims fall between 13 and 17 years blaming the issue on alcohol, drugs and negligence of parents. Also, property and justice related complaints respectively account for 34.4% and 24.5% of complaints lodged to the National Human Rights Commission in 2017/18.

According to UN WOMEN, it is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexually intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives.

However, some national studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. Evidence shows that women who have experienced physical or sexually intimate partner violence report higher rates of depression, having an abortion and acquiring HIV, compared to women who have not.