Caption: Some women dance during the National Women Council at Village level in Masaka sector, Kicukiro district
BY JEAN D’AMOUR MBONYINSHUTI
The general assemblies which took place at all the villages countrywide discussed various issues including roles and responsibilities of NWC and how to implement performance contracts of women trained in National Itorero Commission better known as ‘Ba Mutimaw’Urugo,’ loosely translated as “Heart of the Family”
According to Françoise Uwumukiza, National Women Council President, taking the general assembly to the village level is a new approach to reach all the women and discuss the opportunities women have in developing themselves, help build better families and hence a better society among others.
She said that such general assemblies come after they were held at sector and cell levels which has made it easier and successful as those who were trained helped train others at village level.
During the assembly, officials from NWC, gender officers at district and sector level, and local leaders worked together to interact with the women at village level.
“Our prime responsibility is mobilization and capacity building, we wanted to tell them about opportunities they have to start businesses through the National Employment Programme (NEP) with a support of Business Development Fund (BDF)” she said.
“In mobilization, we wanted to show the women that they have responsibility to protect themselves and their families to prevent diseases and strive for a better health. We informed them that they can hardly get developed when they are unhealthy,” she added.
She said that the general assembly, which was also attended by some men enabled women understand that they should sit together in under the elders’ forum (Akagoroba k’ababyeyi) to chart ways of their own development.
From such discussions, she said, some people have started saving groups which have grown into cooperatives that are now helping them improve their their social economic development.
“Rural women also got to be reminded that they have as equal chances as their counterparts in urban areas and they should play a role in their development. Starting a business doesn’t require more money and they committed to be part of their development,” Uwumukiza said adding that currently they have 135 women cooperatives which started as small saving groups.
She said that as women are considered the heart of the family, they were also briefed on their role on good governance and were encouraged to play a role in the forthcoming presidential elections slated for 4th August.
On performance contracts
Uwumukiza said that women were reminded of the task they have ahead of implementing seventeen performance contracts they signed during the National Itorero Commission which was attended by some women representatives, early this year.
Among the components in the performance contract are; playing a significant role in building a society that promotes a culture of peace and national values, promoting nutrition in the families especially for the children who are under five, implementation of Early Childhood Centres (EDC), promotion of hygiene and family welfare.
Others include; fighting the vice of dropping out among school-going children, ending presence of street children, fight early pregnancies, fighting child labour and human trafficking.
They also committed to fight poverty among families by educating people to work hard, to go for vocational trainings and working with financial institutions while embracing ICT.
To make all this happen, Uwumukiza said; “We need women who can bring in better changes and build better societies. We train them to be real leaders and be more patriotic, participate in elections and be exemplary and we hope we have reached all the women and we shall keep mobilizing few who might have missed.”
What do women say
On touring some villages in Kigali and in upcountry districts, some women said while they are supported by local leaders and other partners, the NWC helps them more understand their role and build their intellectual capacity to take on a responsibilities they could not try before.
At Mubano village in Masaka sector, Kicukiro district, women gathered on Saturday in a place where a tailoring and saving cooperative operates from.
They were joined by women council officials from sector level as well as local leaders to have discuss how they can better improve their lives and boost national development.
Philomene Uwizeye, is one of the women. She said they joined the cooperatives after getting advice from the National Women Council officials that one can achieve more in a cooperative.
Umuhuza Cooperative is made up of 15 women most of them wives of disabled men, injured during the liberation struggle making them the direct responsible people to manage their respective families.
“We thought about having a cooperative after years without having anything to do. We were dependent on our husbands who were not able to raise our families as they are physically disabled,” said a 37-year old mother of five from Kicukiro district, Masaka sector.
“We were approached by the women from national women council as well as local leaders and they advised us to form a cooperative and start a project which could benefit us. We have a tailoring cooperative and we have a training centre with 24 students where some of them have started earning little money before they complete the training,” Uwizeye said.
She said they have managed to buy tailoring machines thanks to savings they have made working with Umurenge SACCO to acquire loans.
“We have hope for the better future as nobody still relies on our husbands. We can raise fees to pay for Mituel de santé, pay school fees for our children as well as buying basics we need in our families,” she said.
“We are grateful to the general assembly; it is the first time this is held at village level and we discussed how we can better do our activities together and contribute more to our development. We were reminded that we still need to work with banks and have more savings; we also need to help our society to be free of domestic violence, gender-based violence as well as reduce school dropout among our children,” she added.
According to Erenestine Kamagaju, from Bwiza village in Musha sector, Rwamagana district, the general assembly helped them interact with leaders and discuss about how they can improve what they are doing.
“We have already made progress in what we do as women and we understand our rights more than before. However, the general assembly was very important as we emphasized our responsibilities as the heart of our families and at the centre of our development and of the nation,” she said.
“We need to be involved in mitigating conflicts and solve problems that occur among our families. When we do this, domestic violence will be curbed and gender equality promoted. We need to ensure that good lessons we learnt, thanks to this general assembly, also reach women who missed the session,” she added.
“We have been reminded that we can’t achieve anything great without good leadership. While we are all trained to be leaders, we need to have top leaders and we are ready to play a role in electing a good leader during the forthcoming presidential elections and ensure that we work hard to complement the elected leader to achieve sustainable development our country desires” she noted.