Women have much to celebrate today because of the enormous strides that have been taken in regard to a successful accomplishment of gender equality. Various campaigns have been put in place all over the world so that both women and men become equal. These have yielded fruitful results. However, much effort is still needed so that 50-50 parity amongst gender is achieved.
The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity, there is hence still a long way to go and this calls for more efforts in order to attain this goal.
Today we are celebrating under the theme “Planet 50-50: Step It Up For Gender Equality”. UN Women alongside other stakeholders have been in the fight for gender equality. Some of the key figures who are on the forefront in promoting and striving to achieve gender equality shared views on how far Rwanda has come with this journey, the challenges that are still impeding and what needs to be done to further strengthen this fight;
Clara Anyangwe the UN Women representative said that Gender equality should not be the woman’s agenda but everybody's business. Women should be seen as both partners and beneficiaries of development programmes and policies.
“Rwanda has done a lot in terms of gender equality. As we embark on the journey towards 2030, there is need to sustain the gender equality gains that have been realized in the areas of women’s leadership and participation in democratic processes. It is also paramount to ensure that women are economically empowered in order to free them from the cycle of poverty with its multiple consequences such as GBV, low esteem and economic dependency,” she said.
It is globally apparent that in Rwanda, women are very well represented in decision making as follows: parliament (64%), women ministers (40%), judiciary (40%), provincial governors (40%), and district councils (38%) – according to the Rwanda 2014 statistical yearbook.
This has fast tracked the implementation of the twelve critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, putting Rwanda on the world record in the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
However, this is not the situation when one looks at the level of representation of women in business investments and ICT.
According to the 2014 Census, out of a total number of 493,302 workers in establishments countrywide, only 36.3% are females and this figure is even much lower in some districts such as Rulindo, Rutsiro and Gakenke where they represent 26.7%, 27% and 30.9% respectively. The census also indicated that only 26.8% of sole proprietorship establishments are owned by women compared to 73.2% owned by men.
“With these figures, it is obvious that there is need for improvement in this area in order to ensure that women are also economically empowered and that they are well represented in the private sector and in business in general,” Anyangwe said.
On-going efforts to support women’s financial inclusion, amongst others, are steps in the right direction to ensure that women effectively access the business ecosystem.
The Ministry of Youth and ICT (and its partners) are focusing all efforts to bridge the gender digital divide due to the limited number of women in ICT- particularly in the areas of computer literacy and internet access/effective usage.
She added that, “I would pledge to galvanize all efforts and work with partners in order to contribute to women's empowerment in all spheres of life and at all levels. There is need to ensure that men and boys are targeted not only to support women’s advancement but also to ensure that they are supported in areas where they could be lagging behind.”
In governance, I would strive for increased representation of women in decision making positions at all levels.
Illiteracy has been a major challenge for women in rural areas to take part in decision making processes. Women's economic empowerment would be a priority because empowering women is empowering the entire society. Studies have shown that the marginal propensity to save is higher for women than for men everything being equal. As a consequence, if women are economically empowered they would increase their savings and therefore their investments, which would in turn contribute to increased economic growth for the entire country.
“As UN Women and based on our mandate, we will continue to mobilize resources in order to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women- in line with the 2030 agenda.”
Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa the deputy governor Central Bank and Chairperson New Faces New Voices Rwanda Chapter said that a lot is still needed for the world to reach gender parity and that the most important thing is to have the need to eliminate any kind of inequalities because however small the percentage could be, it has an effect.
She said, “Parity could mean seeing 50-50% of equality but this hasn’t happened the level is still low, we should however aim at seeing the percentage increase and at a virtuous speed by fighting the challenges that are still prevailing so that by 2030 we get to reach at an astonishing level.”
The call for everyone’s involvement in the fight will indeed bring about a huge difference, everyone needs to understand that their efforts are needed especially men.
“What I think should be done is to first see the challenges that come with gender inequality and see how it affects women and their families at large. Needing equality means attaining it that’s why one needs to first understand that not having that leads to negative repercussions on the lives of women and their families at large, people need to know that it even deters development,” Dr Nsanzabaganwa said.
The other thing that can be done is to increase chances for women and girls through ways such as increasing their chances of accessing education and entrepreneurial skills; these can open doors to lots of opportunities.
“With the areas of ICT, business and technical vocational trainings, women have developed to a certain percentage however more efforts are still needed.”
Gender equality is not an end in its self but it is a precondition for achieving sustainable development. As such, the world should continue emphasizing on the need to develop everybody's potential and take into consideration the needs and priorities of every member of the society (men, women, boys and girls).
The executive secretary of National women council, Jackline Kamanzi revealed that they are to focus on economic empowerment as a tool for empowering the Rwandan woman.
She promised women empowerment by 2030 to be on a different level because where the country is right now with the fight is indeed encouraging.
“When you look at where we are today at least a good number of women are in high decision making positions, however in some other sectors women representation is still low for example in the business sector, we also want to see women there,” she said
She suggested that women should be economically empowered for this fight to escalate to another level. When a woman is economically empowered other sectors will automatically flow because when they are financially stable that’s when they get courage to present themselves in other areas like politics, develop insights to use ICT among others.
“There women who are in businesses who never had a chance to earn a degree but have however maneuvered and worked through businesses, they struggle but lack the skills to turn their small businesses into giant ones and this is still a challenge that’s why economic empowerment can be the answer.”
Kamanzi advised that every ministry should try to advocate and mainstream gender and recognize its relevance of gender equality in whatever they do because the issue is everyone’s responsibility.
“This is a choice this country has made and everyone has a role to play.”
Edouard Munyamariza the executive secretary of Rwanda Men's Resource Centre (RWAMREC) said that to further improve gender equality in Rwanda and the rest of the world men should be a part of the struggle.
He said that people should understand the role of men in gender because such matters are discussed but at the end of the day not come up with a framework that is complete and effective in engaging men in transforming masculinities.
Gender will never be achieved unless we are able to work on our traditional norms. Gender being a matter of perception that’s the only way it can be promoted by changing those norms, perceptions and attitudes. And right from the beginning we need to work with men. Once we have transformed these understandings then we come up with a comprehensive plan that shows the role of each, he said.
“With the areas of ICT, business and TVET, I think I have seen an increasing number of women playing roles in ICT development in Rwanda but again definitely we need to see how the number increases. When you go the private sector you will learn that women are still few to own, manage and exploit enterprises or initiate income generating activities of their own,” Munyamariza said.
There is still a huge investment that is needed to transform perceptions about vocational skills such as carpentry, automobile among others, there are still perceptions and taboos around that will continually exclude girls and women.
“I would recommend two things, one is transformation of gender equality perceptions on trade and businesses, and we still have men in Rwanda, who think that women who go into business end up in scenarios of promiscuity, this is still a problem. We need to see how the government, civil society, private sector can work hand in hand, this will increase the effectiveness.”
Therese Dusabe, Vice president for the Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs said that there is need to put in more efforts in order to achieve the desired goals for the issue of women empowerment.
She said, “Rwanda has already started on the journey and we are better than most countries in regards with gender equality. We are really trying because we have lots of policies that favor gender equality.”
She however pointed out that women themselves still have not yet gained the courage to grab their opportunities and that educating them would be of great help so that by 2030 we are able to achieve the desired goals.
Women are not represented at all in business, there are also other domains such as mining, constriction that women are not represented in any way yet those are sectors with lots of opportunities.
“In the informal sector, the greatest percentage is that of women because they fear to take huge risks hence end up dealing with small businesses. We had forums so as to trace where the problem was arising from and the first one was that women who are in businesses are not educated and this affects the management of their businesses.”
“Like late year UN Women helped us and we trained women on how they can manage their businesses. The other issue they are still facing is access to finance due to difficulty in accessing security,” Dusabe added.
She advised that there is need to educate men also on the issue but women too should have trust in themselves and with that by 2030 there will be a huge step.
What other people say
Vestine Uwamahoro a procurement officer IPRC West appreciated what the Rwandan government has done for women.
“Women now have a say, enjoy equal rights with men which is a good step. The government has achieved a lot in this sector and I believe that it is still doing more however I think that people should now get involved in the fight and not only wait for the government,” she said.
“This year’s theme calls for everyone’s participation and efforts, and if we do exactly that, by 2030, Rwanda and the rest of the world will be at a different level.”
Simon Kalisa called upon fellow men to join the fight so that gender inequality is eliminated.
He said that so men loathe the idea because they think women are trying h to be superior to them which isn’t the case.
“Some men still have the mentality of believing that women should be subordinates yet this has changed over time. We are supposed to be partners in what we do because this is how we are going to develop,” Kalisa pointed out.
He therefore said that the government should also put in efforts to train men at village levels on how women empowerment can not only benefit women, but men and the society at large.