In the just concluded Primary Leaving Exams (PLE), figures from the Ministry of Education indicate that girls constituted the majority of the candidates who sat the national examinations.
Gender activists have argued for some time that women’s empowerment and gender equality, starts with empowering the girl-child, and among some of the pertinent issues in this endevour has been her access to formal education.
Having 53 percent of primary school candidates being girls is certainly a milestone that should be celebrated.
Rwanda has made a firm commitment to women’s empowerment, a goal which was highlighted in the 2003 Constitution and the Vision 2020 development plan, adopted in 2000.
Education for all, achieving gender parity in higher education, and affirmative action to promote women’s educational and social advancement are designated as policy priorities, in the realization of Rwanda’s development goals.
Concerted efforts were undertaken by the government and stakeholders to encourage girls to do well at school and achieve good results.
Parents, community leaders and the general public were sensitized on the importance of girl-child education.
The First Lady, Rwandan women politicians and other female role models embarked on country-wide tours, visiting and addressing girls in the schools who looked up to them for inspiration.
The recent statistics from the Ministry of Education are the real proof that the efforts are bearing fruit.
Historically, as a result of negative cultural practices, Rwandan girls and women were marginalized from the education system, and from participation in the broader public life.
Furthermore, girls’ education focused on developing skills which reinforced their socialized roles, such as secretarial skills, home economics and general hygiene, while boys were prepared for dominant roles that determine societal dynamics.
Today, such policies have been revised to promote equal access to education at all levels. However, people’s attitudes have not evolved as rapidly, since socialized roles and stereotypes continue to prioritize boys’ education.
We should not relent, to ensure the girls progress to higher institutions.
After all when you educate a woman, you have an educated a nation, Rwanda is right on course.