Rwandan women take stock after Beijing '95

Rwanda today joins the rest of the world to mark the International Women’s Day - a global event to appreciate the enduring efforts of women in the social-economic development of their communities.
Women weaving baskets to support their families. (John Mbanda)
Women weaving baskets to support their families. (John Mbanda)

Rwanda today joins the rest of the world to mark the International Women’s Day—a global event to appreciate the enduring efforts of women in the social-economic development of their communities.

National celebrations will take place in Ngoma District under the theme: ‘Let’s strengthen Performance Contracts in Development.’ There will be similar events at sector level across the country.

The event will be used to evaluate performance contracts signed by women at family and sector level last year which resonates with the international theme: ‘Make it happen.’

In the contracts, women committed to fight prostitution, end wrangles in families and help women street vendors get permanent stalls in markets.

On Monday a Rwandan delegation will present a report on the status of women in the country to the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at UN Headquarters in New York.

The aim is to review progress made in implementing the 1995 Beijing declarations.

Decision making

According to Rwanda’s report on the implementation of  the 1995 Beijing declarations on the status of women launched mid last year, the country has achieved a lot by putting in place laws and  policies that have resulted in increased participation of women in decision-making.

Women constitute 50 per cent of the judiciary, 40 per cent cabinet, 40 per cent provincial governors, 43.2 per cent of district council members and 83.3 per cent of vice mayors in charge of social affairs. Rwanda tops in women’s representation in parliament, increasing from 56.3 per cent in 2008 to 64 per cent.

The report adds that Rwandan women play a key role in promoting peace, unity and reconciliation throughout the post-genocide reconstruction and recovery process.

Women were appointed to head key institutions intended to handle post-genocide reconciliation such as the Unity and Reconciliation Commission and Gacaca courts where they constituted over 30 per cent of the more than 160,000 judges countrywide.

Such efforts saw Rwanda emerge second globally on the 2009 Social Watch Gender Equity Index, with only Sweden having a higher score. 

At the international level, Rwandan women have played a significant role in UN peacekeeping missions, as peacekeepers and as police and military observers, in Sudan, South Sudan, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali and Central African Republic.

“For instance, from 2005 to May 2014, at least 446 women police officers had served in UN and AU peacekeeping missions, and by June last year 200 female army officers were serving in peacekeeping missions,” said Rose Rwabuhihi, the Chief Gender Monitor.

Poverty eradication

The country also marks Women’s Day today with several woman having managed to escape from extreme poverty. Figures to be presented at the UN conference show that the percentage of female-headed households in poverty fell by 13 per cent in five years from 60.2 per cent in 2005/6 to 47 per cent in 2010/11.

Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Oda Gasinzigwa yesterday said that the government was using economic empowerment as a weapon against social vices like prostitution.

“For instance, poor women are guaranteed  75 per cent collateral security when acquiring loans from local microfinance groups,” she said.

She added that by the end of this year, a project will kick off that will see all street vendors, who are largely women, get permanent stalls.


About 98 per cent of Rwandan women now receive antenatal care from skilled providers and over 69 per cent births occur in health facilities, assisted by a skilled people.

Use of mobile technologies and rapid SMS for emergency labour and other medical complications resulted in a decrease in maternal and infant mortality. Maternal mortality rate decreased from 750/100,000 live births in 2005/6 to 476/100,000 in 2010/11.

Women have the rights to modern contraceptive use and advice if they are 21 years or older. Contraceptive prevalence rate increased from 4.3 per cent in 2000 to 47.7 per cent in 2012.
GBV fight

The New York meeting will also hear that Rwanda has established several rehabilitation centers for gender-based violence (GBV) victims. They provide free 24-hour medical, psycho-social counseling, legal, and safe housing services for victims of violence.

“Toll free telephone lines that facilitate quick emergency reporting, information access and rapid response to GBV cases are also in place,” says Redempter Batete, the Director Gender Promotion at the Ministry of Gender & Family Promotion, during a preparation workshop for the forthcoming meeting.


The report however points out that women still constitute the majority of the poor with about 47 per cent of women-headed households poor, compared to the 44 per cent national average.

“Women are also predominantly employed in subsistence farming compared to men and continue to bear the burden of unpaid care and household work which limits their involvement in productive activities and, thereby reducing their income levels and pushing them deeper in poverty,” added Batete.

Women and girls’ access to science and technology and tertiary education in public institutions remains low. By 2012, the number of women in public tertiary institutions was 33.4 per cent, compared to 54.7 per cent in private schools and universities.

“Teenage pregnancies are still relatively high, so a lot has to be done in line with sexual reproduction health education,” said Jozef Maerien, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund.

According to figures from Police as of November last year, anti-GBV and child protection directorate, a total of 3,127 cases of defilement were registered between 2012 and 2013 in the country. At least 325 cases of rape were also recorded in the same period.



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