OVER the past decade, Rwanda has become a world leader in women’s representation at the highest levels of leadership. This status is a result of a deliberate and focused effort by the government and the people of Rwanda. The leadership, under President Paul Kagame, the National Constitution, favourable political will and the hard work of the women of Rwanda, have, all together, yielded the desired results. It is these milestones we celebrate on International Women’s Day today.
As we look back at the miles we have travelled, we celebrate the women and men who have made it possible for women in Rwanda to participate in leadership and decision making, to represent fellow women and speak out for them. We celebrate the women and men who work hard daily to make a contribution to building our nation and they have done so from the very foundation – restoring peace and building unity among the people. We celebrate those who invest in tomorrow so that those who are still disadvantaged, illiterate and poor can progress.
International Women’s Day is indeed a time to look back and celebrate past achievements. In Rwanda, today, we have a lot to celebrate. When you are only halfway a journey, however, you can only rejoice at how far you have come but you cannot afford to settle, you must continue the journey until you get to the final destination. That is where we are in Rwanda and that is why when we celebrate International Women’s Day, this year, we shall be working not resting. We shall be making an attempt to deal with the issues that still stand as a hindrance to the complete empowerment of all women in Rwanda. We have come so far, we must go all the way, we cannot afford to relax and resign, we can only press on, work harder and achieve even more.
International Women’s Day will, therefore, be the launch of the month long activities during the ‘Rwanda Women and Girls’ Month’ under the theme: ‘Empower Women and Girls to Sustain families’. Activities during the Women and Girls’ Month will focus on: Malnutrition and women’s health; Economic empowerment of women; Girls’ Education and Good governance. These are challenges we still have to face but we are confident that as we focus on them and gather our energies and resources together we shall surmount them too as we have done many others in the past.
The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion is grateful for the national commitment and partnership between government departments and partner participation in organising these activities to be held during the Women and Girls’ Month. The ministries of Health; Agriculture; Education; Local Government and Social Affairs; Trade and Industry; and Justice; and the One UN have been our key partners in planning the Women and Girls’ Month. These activities will get together community members to take part in solving problems and contributing to the needs of fellow community members. We are creating awareness in the community and finding solutions within as we call upon neighbours to contribute to the welfare of their neighbours affected by malnutrition, on women who have prospered to contribute to starting a saving account for their poorer neighbours, on investors to provide education facilities for our girls and for all to stand for the rights of women and girls and fight discrimination and violence of any kind.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day we urge the women and girls of Rwanda to take the opportunities before them and use them to develop themselves, their families and the nation. I call upon the men of Rwanda to support the women as you have always done because, as partners, we will achieve more for our families and for our nation. And I call upon all those who have made progress to make an investment in improving the lives of the less advantaged in our communities.
Happy Women’s Day to all Rwandans!
The author is the Minister of Gender & Family Promotion
International Women’s Day: the beginning of Rwanda Women and Girls’ Month!
‘Empower Women and Girls to Sustain Families’ is Rwanda’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. This theme underscores the importance of the family in development and the vital role women and girls play in building families and the need to ensure that they are facilitated to play their role. Ultimately, when a nation’s families are strong, the nation is built on a firm foundation.
International Women’s Day will be celebrated throughout Rwanda at the Umudugudu level. Government Ministers and Members of Parliament will join the citizens in various areas to celebrate the achievements attained in the advancement and empowerment of women in Rwanda.
Objectives of the Rwanda Women and Girls’ Month
Rwanda Women and Girls’ Month will be a time to:
• create awareness around the challenges facing further empowerment of women in Rwanda,
• spearhead a concerted effort to deal with these challenges,
• mobilize the community to unite and be involved in the progress and development of women and girls.
Focus of the Rwanda Women and Girls’ Month
• Malnutrition and Women’s Health
Malnutrition affects women and children most and because of their roles, women as mothers during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Malnutrition can have adverse effects on both mothers and unborn children and infants. Fighting malnutrition is a nationwide effort in Rwanda, today, and since it affects the family, it is a priority for the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion to join this fight. The good news is that there is no lack of food in Rwanda and with community participation and education, malnutrition will be kicked out of our affected communities.
• Economic Empowerment of Women
Poverty exposes women to deprivation of their rights. On the other hand, economic empowerment of women has a direct impact on the nation’s development and when a woman is economically empowered, her family too benefits. In order to ensure development of the family and the nation, women must be economically empowered. Women in Rwanda need to be aware of avenues to access financing, develop a savings culture and courageously take the step to make investments that will lift them and their families out of poverty.
• Promoting Girls’ Education
An educated girl is a value to her family and to her nation. Today in Rwanda education opportunities are offered to both girls and boys alike. Girls, however, need to be encouraged to take these opportunities and exert themselves to excel and pursue the careers they choose, set goals and reach out for those goals. As educated women, they will be able to work in partnership with men.
• Women and Good Governance
Issues such as gender based violence and all forms of gender inequality affect women adversely. Ultimately, they tear at the seams of the family and disintegrate the nation. Good governance protects women and gives them an opportunity to participate in the development of the nation. It is an issue that needs the full involvement of the community. In a bid to strengthen the family, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion joins other partners in promoting good governance.