During the celebrations for International Day of the Rural Woman last week, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) reiterated its efforts to rally partners towards the development of the rural women, with view to boost family welfare.
While a lot has been achieved in terms of empowering women and ensuring family welfare in general, there are still challenges that must be addressed, according to different officials who spoke at the event to celebrate the day at the national level.
The International Day of the Rural Woman, which at the international level is celebrated on October 15, was at the national level marked on Thursday last week in Gisagara District.
In Rwanda, the day was celebrated as part of an ongoing two-month campaign that aims at enhancing women’s leadership and family welfare.
The campaign started on October 11 and will end on December 10 under the theme “Building the best family we wish, fighting child defilement”.
Officials testing made in Rwanda products.
The official the messages of the campaign, according to officials, should also channelled through churches, and in other special gatherings like the monthly community work, parents’ platforms (Umugoroba w’ababyeyi) and different community meetings among others to reach the wider population.
Speaking at the celebrations on Thursday, Esperance Nyirasafari, the outgoing minister for MIGEPROF and the current minister for Sports and Culture (MINISPOC) said that the campaign seeks to raise awareness on preventing teenage pregnancies and supporting vulnerable parents whose teenagers were defiled and impregnated.
Minister Esperance Nyirasafari, the outgoing minister for Gender and Family promotion hands over tailoring machine to one of outstanding women in Gisagara
The messages would also be channeled through various radios and TVs through talk shows according to the officials.
The planned activities also include educating children and youth on reproductive health, encouraging parents to increase care for their children, urging leaders and stakeholders to aim their focus on empowering the rural woman.
The campaign will also be used as the opportunity to encourage members of the community to play their role in family development and educating their children.
Francine Mukakarisa, the vice president of National Women Council awards a woman on behalf of evening parents' forum that performed well in Gisagara
The campaign also will involve encouraging women to embrace hygiene culture, fighting malnutrition and development activities.
Girls are also urged to play their role in preparing their bright future.
It also includes increasing capacity for vulnerable families as rural women are encouraged to form saving groups and work with financial institutions so that they draw income generating projects to be able to access capital.
“The Day of the Rural Woman is the best opportunity to review the progress of rural women’s development as well as assess challenges they are faced with and seek solution to such challenges to improve rural women’s lives as well as family welfare in general, when the family is poor, a woman and child are most affected,” she said.
She said a lot has been achieved in terms of transforming rural women’s lives by integrating them in development initiatives and closing gender gaps in national development.
“Among the achievements, we observed the role of women in boosting economic development where they have continuously embraced working in cooperatives through which they access credit with financial institutions.”
“This has pulled many out of poverty. Poverty levels among women have reduced from 58.9 per cent in 2001 to 39.1 per cent in 2014 according to the FinScope 2016,” the outgoing minister added.
Women celebrating International Women's day in Gisagara
However, she said that there is still room for improvement adding that there must be strong collaboration so as to achieve targeted goals in the shortest time.
Issue of defilement
“The Rwandan family is distressed by defilement which sometimes leads to early pregnancies and HIV/AIDS infection and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, maternal deaths among others,” she said.
The cases, she said, lead to many other problems that affect family and national development.
Such problems, she said, include school dropouts for children due to early pregnancies, mental disorders, rejection by their families, stigma stunting and others.
“Besides these problems, when a child gives birth at such young age, both that teenage mother and the baby need support from the family to help them to live in better conditions,” she mentioned.
The issue means there is need for every one’s contribution to prevent such problems and continue to support those defiled children and teenage mothers so that their lives are transformed into better.
“We call upon all leaders from different institutions, stakeholders, educators, parents and the youth to put all efforts together so that each one makes a contribution to fight defilement and its related effects,” she noted.
She stressed that people should rush to report any suspected criminals to ensure evidence is swiftly and easily collected such that justice can be done.
Pauline Uwihoreye, a mother from Gisagara district said women have understood their role in development of the country and their responsibility towards improving family welfare.
Women dance during the celebration of International Rural Women's day
“As women we contribute towards family welfare through various initiatives such as working in cooperatives as well as working with our partners towards improving our families,” said Uwihoreye.
“We have also embraced family planning and our husbands also support us. This helps us producing children whom we can afford to raise and we encourage others to also embrace family planning,” she said.
The women leaders dubbed, “Mutima w'urugo,” in Gisagara district educated youth about reproductive health in 26 informal schools, reconciled 520 families who lived in domestic conflicts, according to local leaders.
About 300 families which were legally married are now living in harmony while over 120 others got legally married, thanks to women leaders’ groups.
The women also trained 197 families on hygiene and nutrition while over 100 were taken back to schools.
The Vice Chairperson of National Women Council, Francine Mukakarisa said that besides teenage pregnancies, rural women still face different challenges such as extreme poverty, domestic violence, poor hygiene, malnutrition which cause stunting among children.
“We urge women who have graduated out of poverty to join their colleagues who are still poor and give them foundation for reducing poverty,” she said
“All stakeholders should join efforts to support women in income generating projects to push their further development,” she said.