A United Nations-LED global campaign that seeks to engage men and boys in advocating for women and girls’ rights and empowerment was launched in Kigali, yesterday, with a call to all Rwandans to embrace it.
Dubbed “HeForShe”, the campaign is spearheaded by UN-Women and calls upon all men and boys in the world to sign on for it online and pledge to tackle barriers that prohibit women and girls from fully participating in their country’s socio-economic development.
Hundreds of top government officials, members of civil society organisations and representatives of international development partners working in Rwanda as well as local entrepreneurs, who gathered at Parliament Buildings in Kigali yesterday, pledged their allegiance to the HeForShe campaign.
The campaign, which can be joined on its web site, www.heforshe.org, is an international initiative aimed at mobilising everyone, especially men and youth, to create and increase awareness on gender equality, the fight against gender-based violence and promotion of ICT for all.
President Paul Kagame is one of the global champions of the campaign.
Rwanda has pledged that at least 100,000 Rwandan men and boys will sign up on the campaign, joining one billion men and boys worldwide who will be mobilised to commit to the campaign.
Crucial Rwandan value
Senate president Bernard Makuza, who was the guest of honour at the launch, called on all Rwandans to join President Kagame in supporting the initiative because respect for women’s rights has become a crucial Rwandan value.
“Raising awareness about the role of men in promoting the equality between men and women is important. Let’s make our President’s pledge to support gender equality our own,” Makuza said.
By signing up on the HeForShe campaign, people pledge that they are counted among “billions of men who believe equality for women is a basic human right that benefits us all” and “commit to taking action against gender discrimination and violence in order to build a more just and equal world.”
Some 461,625 men from across the world have joined the campaign while 2,692 men in Rwanda have signed on to the campaign, leaving activists with a task to keep mobilising more people to sign up.
“We are called upon to support the campaign because it’s for a good cause. We should join hands with our President to make the campaign a success,” said Jacqueline Kamanzi Masabo, the executive secretary of the National Women’s Council.
Rwandan women in leadership
Rwanda has been at the forefront of promoting gender equality, with the 2014 World Economic Forum report ranking the country as Africa’s best performer in closing the gender gap, and the seventh out of 142 countries on the global index.
The country also keeps a record of highest representation of women in Parliament with Rwandan women occupying 64 per cent of seats.
But activists say the advancements in gender equality are not enough and under the HeForShe campaign Rwanda has pledged to bridge the gender digital divide and attain parity in ICT access by the year 2020, triple girls’ enrollment in technical and vocational training to advance women’s employment opportunities, and eradicate gender-based violence in all its forms.
“We would like to thank all boys and men in Rwanda who have played a role in empowering women and promoting their rights. We hope that every Rwandan will play their role in implementing the pledges we have made to bridge the gender gaps,” the minister for gender and family promotion, Oda Gasinzigwa, said at the launch of the HeForShe campaign yesterday.
The UN Resident Coordinator, Lamin Manneh, said he hoped that running the campaign in Rwanda would help to empower women in key areas and create the environment for equal employment opportunities among women and men.
Campaigners say that as Rwandans continue to strive for more equality between men and women, the HeForShe campaign is yet another opportunity to celebrate men and boys who contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as a chance to make further commitments to support Rwanda’s development goals through gender equality.
What they say about the campaign
Prosper Ndizeye, a student at Kigali Independent University.
‘We need to understand that women are capable and we need to avoid any violence against them. The HeForShe campaign will definitely help to reduce gender-based violence.’
Monique Munyankindi, lawyer and coordinator of the National Women Council in Nyarugenge District.
‘The HeForShe campaign is important to Rwanda because it’s part of promoting the country’s policy for gender equality. The equality between women and men helps to speed up development because both men and women become partners in the country’s development.’
Robert Mwesigwa, executive secretary of the National Youth Council.
‘The campaign is about elimination of all forms of violence against women. The youth have the biggest role in owning this campaign and promoting it; if they are involved it means they will make better families.’
Edouard Munyamariza, the chairperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform.
‘Men are also compassionate, loving, and caring human beings. What we need is to awaken that personality in them. That’s what the HeForShe campaign essentially means.’
Jacqueline Kamanzi Masabo, executive secretary of the National Women's Council.
‘I think it’s worth it that men and women stand together in fighting for equality. I think the HeForShe campaign shouldn’t stay within the confines of our borders; it’s a message we need to spread all over the world, beginning with our East African region and Africa. Whether it’s in Africa or across the world, women and men need to complement each other to be successful.’