The Rwandan Government has shown high political will for gender equality and commitment to eradicate gender-based violence (GBV). This has been evidenced by legal and policy and institutional frameworks that have been established that are committed to gender equality in all development processes and ending GBV.
From the constitution, there is strong alignment to human rights and equality principles. In addition, the newly revised law governing persons and family explicitly mentions that at household level, both men and women are equal heads of household. There are also other laws to ensure gender equality like the law on land and property, which gives equal ownership of land and property between men and women, the inheritance and succession law which gives equal right to inheritance to women, men, boys and girls .
In addition, there is a standalone law punishing GBV and a GBV policy and strategic plan. There are also different interventions that have been put in place to fight against GBV including centers known as “Isange one stop centers” where holistic services including health, legal aid and counselling services are provided to GBV victims, which are now located in all districts of the country.
Women leadership at top level continue to increase. In recent parliamentary elections, women represent 61% and 50% in cabinet after recent reshuffle.
Despite all these efforts, there remains a disconnect between the lived realities of women and girls and the gender sensitive laws, policies interventions in place. For instance, despite the law on equal ownership of property and land, Rwandan women have little on no say in how land and land produce is used ion most households.
In reality, there remains power imbalances between men and women. GBV in the country continues to be widespread. Cases of murdered women are reported almost on daily basis and there is an increase in teenage pregnancies.
Women’s rights organizations argue that this is linked to the deep rooted patriarchal system in which women are still being less valued especially at the household level. Interventions in place haven’t translated to change in power relations and therefore, sustainable efforts to end GBV need to be more focused at the household level and individuals rather than superficial interventions.
This needs dedicated efforts and allocation of sufficient resources to this cause. According to Pro-Femmes/Twese Hamwe, in a recent study conducted, it shows that there is less priority given to gender equality and GBV interventions in national and district plans, more so there is lack of household level interventions aimed at addressing power imbalances at household level.
The study also shows that there is limited CSOs consultations and women and girls’ participation in setting priorities in national and district plans and budgets.
The recently adopted national strategy for transformation (NST1) has identified Rwandan priorities through three key pillars of economic, social and governance and highlights gender equality as an important cross-cutting area that needs to be taken into consideration in all Ministries and districts plans. However, at central government levels, consultations with different stakeholders are minimal. At the district level, there exists no specific planning and budgeting spaces open to citizens.
From analysis of different sector and district plans, social aspects in planning and budgeting are given little importance, specifically, different types of GBV. For example, an analysis of 17 of the 30 Rwandan districts show that annual plans also known as “Imihigo” or performance contracts for 2015-2016 financial year showed that only 50% of the districts planned for activities related to addressing Gender Based Violence.
Still, even those that planned for GBV activities only had one single activity of monitoring forums known as “Umugoroba w’ababyeyi” which mean parents evening forums, community spaces that have been established for communities to discuss and resolve GBV issues. Monitoring these forums is very minimal and cannot ensure the eradication of the widespread and deep rooted GBV issues in Rwandan communities.
Representative structures of women’s voices like the national women council need urgent strengthening in terms of capacity, guidelines and resources and to ensure views from these structures are channeled in District level and national planning and budgeting.
Pro-Femmes/Twese Hamwe and other civil society organizations are concerned that Rwandan women and girls continue to be victims of GBV resulting from deep-rooted power inequalities between men and women.
They are calling for increased commitment and accountability through central and local government level plans and budgets to implement structural and transformative measures to prevent and respond to gender inequalities.