The empowerment and self-sufficiency of women is highly significant. This is why in the past years the fight for gender equity has been put at the front, and this journey has seen improvement of women’s livelihoods.
This year in particular has seen more tremendous milestones, such as women now constituting 52% of Rwanda cabinet, and more initiatives have come up such as the introduction of ‘Gender Cafes’ a platform that is aimed at tackling bias against women.
However, has enough been done in terms of upholding women empowerment?
Clement Kirenga, the programme manager, human rights and democracy at the embassy focal point for gender at the Swedish Embassy in Rwanda, says this year a lot has been done through different events/activities.
He cites the inclusion of women in decision making positions such as women representation cabinet increasing tremendously (52%), something he says is keeping Rwanda at the helm of this fight.
He also notes that campaigns on awareness about women’s rights, fighting teen pregnancies, how to engage men and boys in the gender equality drive have been spontaneous as well.
However, Kirenga notes that a lot more remains to be done because of the challenges that are still at large, for example, cases of defilement.
In the 2016/2017 fiscal year, 3,060 cases of defilement were received, a figure which rose to 3,512 cases by August this year, according to statistics from Rwanda Investigation Bureau.
“This problem alone is alarming. In addition, more men and women are not yet aware of the issues of gender inequality, so men still dominate women in terms of voice and power; gender based violence is still at large, there are still low numbers of women at lower levels of decision making and private sector, plus a limited access to resources among others,” he says.
He is, hence, of the view that to keep on addressing this, more awareness on gender equality should be done, especially by involving men and boys.
He also believes that unpacking and contextualising feminism that is rising, especially on social media, more discussions on young girls’ access to contraceptives and other preventions of unwanted pregnancies, more punishments to GBV perpetrators can be of great importance.
“Encouraging women’s access to finance is also vital, this calls for more involvement of the private sector,” he adds.
Gender activist Sharon Mbabazi says 2019 has done great in terms of women empowerment, though it’s still a process for a lot has to be done to strengthen what is already being implemented. This translates to having more innovations in 2020 to strengthen women empowerment further.
She is of the view that women be provided with economic empowerment, whereby they get access to financial tools and services, arguing that given the right skills, women can excel in whatever they put their hearts to.
“2020 should grant more opportunities for women empowerment through innovative ideas, such as more trainings/summits to empower them with entrepreneurial skills in their different sectors. This will build a legacy of excellence, impacting and influencing women globally,” Mbabazi says.
Bertin Ganza Kanamugire, the founder of Afflatus Africa, appreciates the works done by Rwanda and some other countries such as Ethiopia in the fight for women empowerment.
He, however, notes that more is yet to be achieved for women are still undermined and assaulted in different parts of the world.
For this journey to be strengthened, Kanamugire recommends having more women in decision-making positions, giving them more benefits in work places and most importantly, listening to those in need without judging them.
Role of the youth
Isabella Akaliza, the founder of #FreeThePeriod Initiative, says 2019 was a year that really highlighted the power of the Rwandan Youth.
We saw young people increasingly forming strong views and mobilising on local and global issues. They advocated for reforms on policies related to gender based violence, menstrual rights, reproductive justice, climate change, poverty alleviation and mental health. Their work in community education, advocacy, policy and fundraising showed that this young generation has a lot to say, Akaliza says.
For the next decade, she envisions the youth working collectively to advocate for publicly supported child-care, comprehensive sex education in schools, policies that support the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, to have children, to not have children, and parent the children had in safe and sustainable communities.
“We will fight to make more visible the previously hidden extent of gender-based violence. We will work for equal access to education. We believe that a better future is possible,” she says.
Anne-Marie Mukankusi, the founder of Ineza Village, an initiative that supports Rwandan single mothers in the US, says these last couple of years leading to 2019 did well in terms of creating awareness and speaking out loud about how enough is enough in terms of equal pay (working environment), noting, however, that there is definitely still a long way to go.
“Women are still raped and sex trafficked everywhere, women are still not paid as similarly as their male colleagues, and a lot of cultures still regard women as less than their male counterparts. I honestly believe it will take years for women to be treated equally because change always takes time and a lot of sacrifices. You would think by now a lot would have changed but we definitely still have a long way to go,” Mukankusi says.
She believes that women need to do better in raising their daughters and sons equally.
Encouraging women’s access to finance is also vital. Net photos
“We have harmed our own daughters saying that women are supposed to be like this and men are supposed to act like that. We should start raising our daughters and sons the same. Instead of raising our girls to be submissive, gentle and to ‘just be girls’, we should teach all our children to be respectful, kind, hardworking and be smart and teach our sons to respect women. Encourage our daughters to be scientists, doctors, lawyers, engineers and our sons if they want to do careers that have been assigned to women for generations,” she adds.
Lastly, Mukankusi says words need to be put into action, “for example if its hiring more women, advocating for equal pay and including women on the table, especially when it comes to making decisions, let it be done.”
Women empowerment drive explores boardroom diversity and actions to improve gender balance. Net photos
What more needs to be done to strengthen women empowerment?
There is a lot of progress that has been made in terms of women empowerment but what we need to strive for is their actual participation, and continue to make the case for the full inclusion of women and girls in all sectors such as technology, politics among others.
Shadia Nansasi, Counsellor
We need coherent strategies to promote women’s economic empowerment. Women who are economically empowered have access to a number of resources that can enable them to be self-reliant. This helps them to develop their households and society at large.
Rugamba Mihigo, Software engineer
Focus should be put on rural women. These women go through a lot and lack resources among many other things, they need special emphasis and strategies that will enable them to first get skills, they also need to be imparted with knowledge about their rights.
Pie Kombe, Reflexologist
We need to educate the next generation by changing our conversations now. Let’s treat each other with respect, let’s fight for our rights as women but at the same time, maintain respect for our male counterparts. We also need to understand that the best way to find inequality is by having both men and women on the same page.
Deborah Nanyonga, AdministratorFollow https://twitter.com/DonahMbabazi