President Paul Kagame has called on leaders across various fields to level the playing field to ensure gender equality becomes the new norm.
Kagame was speaking at the 12th edition of the European Development Days in Brussels in Belgium yesterday.
He said that for far too long, gender inequality has been manifested in societies largely driven by a line of thought that women are inferior.
President Kagame: Compensating women for where they have been disadvantaged is not enough. We have to truly level the playing field and make public pledges that raise standards and expectations going forward. #EDD18 #EDD2018— Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage) June 5, 2018
“Compensating women, for where they have been disadvantaged, is not enough. We have to truly level the playing field, and make public pledges, that raise standards and expectations, going forward,” the President said.
“It is up to leaders at every level to ensure that there is accountability for changing harmful societal norms. The task cannot just be left to individuals to sort out among themselves,” the President added.
Referring to a study by the World Bank that showed that countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth due to the lifetime earning gaps between men and women, Kagame pointed to the many shortcomings that continue to stand in the way of gender equality including sexual harassment, pay inequality as well as lack of freedom for women to be themselves.
“It is not enough for a woman to be as good, or better, than male counterparts. She must also look a certain way and even be careful about her tone of voice. Failure to conform comes with a cost in terms of salary and career advancement, a penalty that men do not have to worry about,” he highlighted.
He condemned the tolerance of sexual harassment, terming it as a heavy tax on women’s rights.
“The culture of tolerating sexual harassment is a heavy tax on women’s rights, as we have been hearing with increasing frequency. Women have been expected to keep quiet about these negative experiences. It is a good thing that it is beginning to be talked about more openly,” the head of state said.
“For too long, society has created a psychology that women are inferior and can only rise at the mercy of men. This is a norm that can no longer be tolerated, not only with regard to unwanted advances, but indeed in all aspects of the struggle for equality,” he added.
President Kagame: For too long, society has created a psychology that women are inferior & can only rise at the mercy of men. This is a norm that can no longer be tolerated. Not only with regard to unwanted advances, but indeed in all aspects of the struggle for equality #EDD18— Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage) June 5, 2018
To change the status quo, Kagame pointed to the need to adjust mindsets:
"That starts with learning to see the extra hurdles, that women must clear every day, whether in terms of unfair expectations, unpaid work, and violations of personal dignity," Kagame said.
“He For She”, or “She Is We”: These should not be mere hashtags, but expressions of our determination to make change really happen. Rights and outcomes are only equal when treatment is equal,” the President added.
Highlighting Rwanda’s experience in improving equality, the President said that the country's approach focused on the benefits that gender equality brings to society thus ensuring that no one felt they were losing and making gains sustainable.
Among the implemented initiatives was the establishment of an insurance scheme that allows women to continue receiving their full salary during twelve weeks of maternity leave.
The President lauded the EU for the work on ending inequality which he noted is also at the heart of the African Union Agenda 2063.
The President later held meetings with leaders present at the European Development Days including Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament and President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca of Malta among others.