First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said that women and girls are capable of bringing about significant change to their environment, despite obstacles that stand in the way of their advancement.
If the existing impediments to women advancement were removed from their paths, Mrs. Kagame indicated that the impact of change could be more powerful.
The First Lady was speaking at the 14th World Vision Summit ‘Strong Women Strong World’ which took place Friday in New York, USA.
“We all have at least one story of that one woman or girl, who has sparked off remarkable changes around them, because they had been able to enjoy the many benefits of gender equality and social justice, beginning with equal access to knowledge, and education,” she said.
'She Can' performance during 14th World Vision 'Strong Women Strong World' Summit luncheon, challenges faced by girls and women living in extreme poverty.
She particularly told the story of Yvette Ishimwe, a young Rwandan female entrepreneur who last year received the ‘Queen’s Young Leaders’ award at Buckingham Palace in London.
Ishimwe studied physics, chemistry and biology in high school at a time when the Government had started to push for girls’ increased enrolment in the STEM cohort.
“While in school, she decided to create a social enterprise called ‘Iriba Clean Water Delivery’ to extract water from natural sources such as lakes, and to treat it using a water purifier system, before supplying it to households at an affordable cost,” Kagame recounted the story.
This simple but innovative concept, she added, is now allowing communities living in water-scarce environments, to access clean, potable water available at arm’s length.
The First Lady indicated that the role of women is changing, and that opportunities need to expand in order to keep pace with the evolving aspirations of all members of society.
She said that it is, therefore, imperative to consider the dual role that women embrace in these modern times.
Edgar Sandoval, President of World Vision U.S. at the 14th World Vision Strong Women Strong World Summit.
While traditionally, most women were expected to focus exclusively on the family sphere, and fulfil their responsibilities as wives, mothers and caregivers, the First Lady said that in today’s fast-paced world, women are seen as full participants in both the private and public arena.
“Their roles have shifted from mothers and caregivers, to an increasing acceptance of their role as leaders, in their own right,” she noted.
“As a result, our interventions should be carefully designed to provide balance to this evolving chapter in the book of women. Both roles should be seen as complementary and foundational – for the children, the family, and ultimately for society at large,” she added.
Mrs. Kagame who’s also the Chairperson of Imbuto Foundation, emphasised that it was fair to intensify efforts to change cultural practices that limit women to specific roles.
“For us in Rwanda, this has meant not only entrenching supportive policies and legislation, but also changing cultural beliefs that limit women to specific roles, while overlooking the supportive and nurturing role of men,” she noted.
At the World Vision summit, the First Lady addressed more than 250 guests, including women and men of influence, with a passion to empower women and girls to become agents of change in eradicating poverty.
Among other participants were Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, President Edgar Sandoval, of World Vision United States, and World Vision Celebrity Ambassador, Patricia Heaton.
World Vision has been operating in Rwanda since 1994. Every year, about 1.2 million people especially children benefit from World Vision Rwanda’s programmes, which currently operate in 24 districts throughout the country.
The First Lady commended the organisation’s work to support different programmes like child protection, education and food security, health, nutrition and water sanitation.
“Allow me to reiterate that we need more allies for this noble cause, if we are to remove the last-standing, structural barriers to progress, and the mindsets that still undermine the ability of our women and girls, to awaken to the full potential and power that lies within them,” she noted.