First Lady Jeannette Kagame has called for continued efforts toward women empowerment to achieve more financial inclusion and economic progress.
The First Lady was speaking at the sidelines of the Comesa Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by Ethiopian First Lady Roman Tesfaye to discuss the economic empowerment of women.
Mrs Kagame spoke alongside the First Ladies of Ethiopia, Malawi and Madagascar at the forum that was attended by various members of civil society, government leaders and the regional business community.
Yesterday’s forum was held under the theme, “Economic Empowerment of Women: A key to inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development.”
The First Lady noted that even with maximum political will and support from civil society, there were still challenges with respect to financial inclusion.
“A global female leader, perhaps correctly, stated: ‘too many women, in too many countries speak the same language, silence’. We see several girls lacking confidence, preferring to remain on the periphery of economic progress,” she said.
Mrs Kagame called on women empowerment stakeholders to avoid using African cultures and ways of life as excuses to miss out on opportunities to achieve economic success.
Quoting a renowned Burmese female politician, the First Lady said that it was through education and empowerment that progress would be achieved.
“Aung Suu Kyi said it well: ‘The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.’ It surely cannot fail to spur the double-digit economic growth rates Africa so badly needs to move to middle income status,” Mrs Kagame said.
Citing some of Rwanda’s approaches to women empowerment, Mrs Kagame said the government is constantly working to create favourable conditions for women, who comprise 52 per cent of the population.
Some of the policies and programmes that have formed a strong base for lasting financial inclusion are laws that include women in decision making and leadership positions, education programmes that have improved school enrolment and poverty reduction schemes, among others.
“Rwanda’s leadership has been clear and consistent about placing women at the heart of the national agenda and considers gender a cross-cutting pillar in all sectors of the economy,” Mrs Kagame said.
To add to the national programmes and initiatives run by the government, the First Lady, through the Imbuto Foundation, has also been at the forefront of women and girl child empowerment.
Every year, the Foundation rewards girls who excel in national examinations–for motivational purposes.
“Every year we motivate girls to excel at school by awarding those who have done well in national examinations.
This social mobilisation campaign sensitises the community, parents, teachers, civil society, boys and local leaders to collectively support girls’ education; today over 3,000 girls have been recognised and supported,” Mrs Kagame said.
The Foundation also regularly hosts forums to impart financial knowledge among the young people whereby seasoned finance experts share knowledge and tips on saving, spending and investing.
“It would make a difference if women could begin sharpening their financial acumen and building a healthy relationship with money, by understanding basic concepts of financial planning, economics and entrepreneurship early on,” Mrs Kagame explained.
The First Ladies addressed various challenges faced by Comesa member states, with respect to participation of women in the economy.
They also shared successes on what has worked in favour of women and girls-at policy and programme level.
Various members of the civil society, government leaders and business people, presented the initiatives being implemented on the ground to empower women.
Recommendations from the roundtable will be presented to the Comesa Heads of State and Government Summit.