BY GODFREY NTAGUNGIRA
The government of Rwanda has made gender parity in the legislature and public service a top priority.
The government thus set a target of women members to constitute at least 30% of parliamentary representation on the basis of the provisions of the 2003 Constitution.
The main purpose of this move is to have women as key stakeholders within the country’s development ideals.
Consequently women have continued to play an increased role on efforts geared at developing the economy within different sectors.
For instance within the health sector among the specialist practitioners 20% are women, while within primary education the girl child constitute 30% and among the teaching profession woman have a lion’s share of 55%.
The figures above are encouraging though much still needs to be done. This is due to the fact that disparities persist in career development, employment status and even pay, among other areas of constrains within the national gender mainstreaming efforts.
The country’s health system has been decentralized with intent of bringing the services closer to the citizens.
With regards to gender campaign awareness this has been conducted and this exercise will continue to be undertaken in order to mobilize women to use such health facilities to improve their livelihoods.
Rwanda has strongly committed itself to achieving the holistic realization of children’s rights by developing strategies aimed at (1) reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, (2) controlling the population growth, (3) improving the nutritional status of children and mothers, while developing efforts to improve access to health care and drinking water, and (4) ensuring the protection of the rights and welfare of children.
These strategies include the following:
Development of a universal health insurance scheme
Since 2006, every health centre in the country has had a health insurance section.
Now, there are national subsidies for those who cannot afford this scheme so that every citizen can be covered.
In general, the living standards of women have improved due to the fact that health insurance known as “mutuelles de santé” has enabled rural women to have easy access to medical care.
Community health development
Community health workers have been trained on community-based prevention and management of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, while issues such as hygiene and education of the population on adherence to mutual health insurance schemes has been conducted.
Gender sensitive legislation
Parliament due to its current composition has been adept at passing legislation that is gender sensitive.
For instance the Bill of law on the amendments of the Family Code is in the final stages of drafting and is yet to be sent to the Cabinet for endorsement.
In the last 15 years, Rwanda has put in place new education programmes.
Key areas of consideration include the need to develop a credible human resource capacity through universal education centred on scientific, technological, vocational and managerial training.
The nine year basic education is free and intends to raise the general level of education, knowledge and skills within the population.
It is also meant to reduce the level of poverty of the population and improve economic growth in the future.
This measure is meant to facilitate the education of the girl child.
In the same light the Government of Rwanda has embarked on the education of disadvantaged learners, and developed a special education system (catch-up programme) to meet the needs of out-of school and non-schooled children, and children with special needs in ordinary school life.
In the domain of Technical and Vocational Education (TVE), the Ministry of Education is currently developing a policy on technical and vocational education.
TVE programmes encompass different areas of policy interventions focused on issues such as employment, private sector development, agricultural, industrial development and others.
It is important to mention that this development of vocational and social skills among people, especially children headed households including families headed by girls will increase their employment capacity with an intent of ensuring that such persons will eventually take part in meaningful production processes.
Bridging the divide
The Ministry of Education is committed to increase access and retention for both males and females in secondary and higher education.
The following reflect the major activities to reduce inequalities related to gender issues in secondary education and higher education levels:
Today Rwanda has Girl’s Education Policy and Girl’s Education Strategic Plan 2009 -2013 which has been developed coupled with the establishment of a Girl’s Education desk in the Ministry of Education.1% of the total annual budget is allocated to this specific programme.
The Girl’s Education campaign is a five year strategic plan aimed at sensitizing all stakeholders to improve access, retention, achievement and completion of the Girl Child at all levels of education.
Girls themselves have been sensitized to embrace science related subjects through women role models.
The Girls` Education taskforce is in place composed of Migeprof, The Imbuto Foundation, UNICEF, DFID, National Youth Council, National Women Council, Profemme, Fawe and Mineduc.
A capitation grant is allocated to all schools and this is to increase access for girls, vulnerable children and poor families.12 schools that showed best practice in the promotion of Girl’s Education were rewarded with a Rwf. 16,000,000 cash boost.
The dropout rate in secondary education for female students is relatively insignificant in relation to the promotional rates and repetition cases.
However in most cases special attention is given to female students in acquisition of accommodation facilities.
Reports from the Ministry Gender and Family Promotion assert that generally, in higher education the problem of high dropout rates is almost non-existent.
There are few isolated cases that happen as a result of either suspension due to financial constraints in paying tuition fees particularly in private universities or dismissal due to failure in academic courses.
Community Policing Committees and Gender
The concept of community policing committees are innovations that will strengthen community out reach programs such as those centered on security.
It builds on the principles of making citizens play a role in keeping their security and the security of other citizens a prime area of achieving safe neighbourhoods.
The concept is meant to create a working partnership between the police and community through mutual confidence to solve security problems.
This policy is expected to solve and foil community security lapses and to create awareness against issues which affect women such as domestic violence as one of its roles through community policing committees.
The committees observes at least 30% women presentation and this is an opportunity for increasing women’s role in preventing sexual and gender based violence and to promote peace building.
This move is an echo to the contents of Article 11 of the Constitution which prohibits discrimination of any kind be it ethnic origin, tribe, clan, colour, sex, region, social origin, religion or faith, opinion, economic status, culture, language, social status, physical or mental disability or any other form of discrimination.
Cross cutting issues
In addition to the quota of 30% recognized by the Constitution of Rwanda, gender equality is a cross-cutting issue in all national policies and programs.
Some special measures have been initiated by the government to mainstream gender within national programs.
The government equally is supportive of some initiatives made by groups of individuals, the private sector or the civil society. These include the following:
1. Special schemes
Regarding boosting woman’s creditworthiness, the government put in place a women guarantee fund in 1999 in order to support women entrepreneurship.
The fund operates in the National Bank of Rwanda whose purpose is to extend credit to women entrepreneurs.
Besides, in 1997, groups of individuals started a rural credit scheme for poor women on the District level. Since then, the government has earmarked some money on its budget to financially support this initiative through the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion.
2. Elaborate legal provisions
Some of the measures undertaken to address sexual harassment and violence against women in the workplace include the initiation of the Bill on prevention and repression of gender based violence.
This legal instrument contains some legal provisions on the repression of sexual harassment against women.
In the same breath awareness campaigns have been conducted in different workplaces in public and private institutions, in a concerted bid to promote this legal provision.
Also, the Law number 22/99 regarding the matrimonial regimes, liberalities and inheritance as well as the Organic Law on the use of land, have been promulgated.
Based on the studies conducted some women have now access to land from their parents holdings and those from their husbands’ families.
Regarding social security, the law on the social security fund is under revision in order to consider the security insurance for the people working in the informal sectors including women.
The fact that women do participate in decision-making organs from the grassroots level means that they have been part and parcel in the initiation and shaping of national policies which largely affect them.