On Sunday 8th March, Rwandans gathered at Ngoma district headquarter grounds in Eastern province to celebrate the International Women’s Day.
The national celebration which saw a turn up of thousands of women and men, boys and girls, including school children and mothers, also marked the 20-year anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action; - the world’s historic roadmap signed by 189 governments in 1995 for promoting gender equality and empowerment of women.
Officiated by the Prime Minister, Anastase Murekezi, the celebrations were joined by United Nations Rwanda officials and other representatives from international and national nonprofit organizations.
In Rwanda, the day was marked under the theme; “Let’s strengthen performance contracts in development.” While this year’s International theme was; “Empowering Women - Empowering Humanity: Picture It!” which imagines a world where each woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize all her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for equal work.
There has been remarkable progress in Rwanda since Beijing in 1995, including in areas such as Women in Power and Decision Making, Women and the Economy, Education and Training for Women etc.
But more concerted efforts are to be made towards continuous improvement in all 12 critical areas identified in 1995 to ensure elimination of gender gaps and the empowerment of women globally..
Policy makers say there is more to be done in terms of upholding women’s achievements recognize challenges and focus on women’s rights and gender equality.
Speaking during the event, Premier called for concerted efforts in pursuit of gender equity at all levels so as to achieve the country’s development agenda.
“We have good will in ensuring gender equity. However, we cannot achieve sustainable development without ensuring proactive and sustainable gender equity,” Murekezi said.
The premier noted that efforts to empower women should not be left to leaders alone, but every citizen should take it upon themselves if gender equity is to be visibly evident in the country.
Rwanda has ensured gender equity in all governance policies, including budget allocation as well as ensuring gender sensitive provisions in national constitution.
He reiterated government’s commitment to ensuring gender equity, noting that; “everyone wins when women interests are put on the forefront.”
The UN Resident Coordinator, Lamin Manneh, noted that, even though there’re many gender related challenges to be “urgently tackled” on the global scale, Rwanda has a lot to share with the world in terms of ensuring gender equity.
“Rwanda has the highest representation of women in the Parliament - 64 per cent, [compared to the average of 21 per cent for the rest of the world],” Manneh noted, “while 40 per cent of women occupy cabinet in Rwanda.”
“We can see a strong commitment by the government in its vision of gender equality and ensuring stable and strong families in the country, which we applaud,” Manneh added.
Manneh noted that the 20th anniversary of Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action also provides an important opportunity to reflect on the journey made towards gender equity both globally and in Rwanda, as well as devise means to tackle the remaining challenges.
UN Secretary-General's Message for International Woman’s Day 2015
Twenty years ago, when the world convened a landmark conference on women’s human rights, the devastating conflict in the former Yugoslavia prompted deserved attention to rape and other war crimes there against civilians. Two decades later, with girls as young as seven not only targeted but used as weapons by violent extremists, it would be easy to lose heart about the value of international gatherings. But while we have a long way to go to achieve full equality – with ending gender-based violence a central goal – progress over the past two decades has proven the enduring value of the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women.
Since the adoption of its Declaration and Platform for Action, more girls have attained more access to more education than ever before. The number of women dying in childbirth has been almost halved. More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations. I welcome these advances. At the same time, on this International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge that the gains have been too slow and uneven, and that we must do far more to accelerate progress everywhere.
The world must come together in response to the targeting of women and girls by violent extremists. From Nigeria and Somalia to Syria and Iraq, the bodies of women have been transformed into battlegrounds for warriors carrying out specific and systematic strategies, often on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Women have been attacked for trying to exercise their right to education and basic services; they have been raped and turned into sex slaves; they have been given as prizes to fighters, or traded among extremist groups in trafficking networks. Doctors, nurses and others have been assassinated for trying to operate in their professional capacity. The women human rights defenders brave enough to challenge such atrocities risk – and sometimes lose – their lives for the cause.
We must take a clear global stance against this total assault on women’s human rights. The international community needs to translate its outrage into meaningful action, including humanitarian aid, psycho-social services, support for livelihoods, and efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. With women and girls often the first targets of attack, their rights must be at the centre of our strategy to address this staggering and growing challenge. Empowered women and girls are the best hope for sustainable development following conflict. They are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation, and the best buffer against radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.
Even in societies at peace, too many girls and women are still targets of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence that traumatize individuals and damage whole societies. Discrimination remains a thick barrier that must be shattered. We need to expand opportunities in politics, business and beyond. We need to change mind-sets, especially among men, and engage men in becoming active change-agents themselves. And we must back up our resolve with resources based on the sure understanding that investments in gender equality generate economic progress, social and political inclusion and other benefits that, in turn, foster stability and human dignity.
This is a vital year for advancing the cause of women’s human rights. The international community is hard at work on establishing a new sustainable development agenda that will build on the Millennium Development Goals and shape policies and social investments for the next generation. To be truly transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment. The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential. When we unleash the power of women, we can secure the future for all.
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UN Women Executive Director’s message for International Women’s Day
In 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, world leaders committed to a future where women are equal.
One hundred and eighty nine countries and 4,000 civil society organizations, attended the conference.
Women left Beijing with high hopes, with a well-defined path towards equality, and firm commitments at the highest level. Their hope was that we would see this by 2005.
Today, not one single country has achieved equality. It is more urgent than ever that we define – and stick to – a time frame.
There has been some progress in the last 20 years – although it has been slow and uneven.
Countries have narrowed the gender gap in education and some have even reached gender parity in school enrolment.
They have reduced the toll of maternal mortality and morbidity. Many more women survive pregnancy and childbirth than in 1995.
Many countries have created institutions that address gender inequality.Many have passed laws against gender-based discrimination. Many have made domestic violence a crime.
This is all good news.
And yet we are still a long way from achieving equality between men and women, boys and girls.
Implementation of good policies has been patchy. Allocation of the resources needed for effective implementation has been insufficient to fund women’s ministries, gender commissions, gender focal points, and gender-responsive budgeting.
For too many women, especially in the least-developed countries, not enough has changed.
In Africa, 70 per cent of crop production depends on women yet women still own only 2 per cent of the land.
Violence against women continues to blight lives in all countries of the world.
And no country has achieved gender equality.
Women need change and humanity needs change. This we can do together; women and girls, men and boys, young and old, rich and poor.
The evidence is overwhelming of the benefits that equality can bring. Economies grow, poverty is alleviated, health status climbs, and communities are more stable and resilient to environmental or humanitarian crises.
Women want their leaders to renew the promises made to them. They want leaders to recommit to the Beijing Declaration, to the Platform for Action, and to accelerated and bolder implementation.
They want more of their leaders to be women. And they want those women, together with men, to dare to change the economic and political paradigms. Gender parity must be reached before 2030, so that we avert the sluggish trajectory of progress that condemns a child born today to wait 80 years before they see an equal world.
Today, on International Women’s Day, we call on our countries to “step it up”forgender equality, with substantive progress by 2020. Our aim is to reach ‘Planet 50:50’ before 2030.
The world needs full equality in order for humanity to prosper.
Empower women, empower humanity. I am sure you can picture an equal world!
Link to video for online publication: http://youtu.be/6_kZn04S0nY
Phumzile Mlambo-NguckaFollow https://twitter.com/AthanTashobya