The director-general of science, technology and research at the Ministry of Education has cited education as key to overcoming discrimination, and poverty in Rwanda and the region.
Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa made the remarks, yesterday, while speaking to more than 40 students from 14 countries who are attending the summer school of the Association of Commonwealth Universities at the University of Rwanda’s College of Business and Economics.
She said women should be favoured to enable them become active contributors toward achieving sustainable development goals.
“While women [in Rwanda] make up 53 per cent of the total population and participate in all activities, especially subsistence agriculture, education should eradicate all forms of discrimination, fight poverty, integrate all positive practices adopted from elsewhere to implement policies that favour women and make them proud active contributors to the sustainable socio-economic development of our country,” Gasingirwa said.
Speaking about Rwanda’s initiatives to enable girls and women in the Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) field, Gasingirwa noted that, despite Rwanda being a patriarchal societym, it had managed to climb up the ladder in terms of gender equality and this can only be attributed to the spirit of resilience that the country has.
“Socio-economic and cultural factors play a part, and in some cases, families favor boys over girls for entrance into school, especially if access to quality education is not free. The broader obstacle of poverty keeps girls in labour environments in order to help their families subsist,” she said.
“However, the resilience of Rwandans has enabled girls climb up the STEM ladder. We know how we have suffered from our past mistakes and we have made it a point to design our destiny.”
Gasingirwa said there are greater prospects as girls get more motivated by the innovations they release to the market.
“The increasing numbers of (STEM) ambassadors, girl scientists and technologists, is convincing that we have role models inspire other girls to get involved in STEM for sustainable development of their careers, Rwanda and the region,” she said.
Gasingirwa added that while some of the factors that lead to gender disparity still exist in Rwanda, several proposed affirmative actions are being put in place to focus on girls in secondary and tertiary education which include, increasing capacity of education system (nine and 12-year basic education programmes), improving learning environment, and increasing the number of qualified female teachers in traditionally male domains.
The ongoing summer school is being held under the theme, “The Sustainable Development Goals: What Role for Universities?”
Participants at the weeklong summer school, that closes on Saturday, will share examples of best practice in areas such as university outreach and community development, as well as participate in lectures, seminars, and site visits themed around key sustainable development themes.
The participants are meant to spend the week working on a high-level group project, enabling delegates to begin building a personal and institutional contribution to the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The event features a range of high-profile speakers from Rwanda and other countries.
The students from across the world will be able to understand the context of the SDGs in Rwanda, and share ideas for the implementation of the SDGs for socioeconomic development globally. The event also provides an opportunity for the Rwandan youth and community to interact with and learn from young people from other countries.
In a statement ahead of the opening, Prof. Philip Cotton, vice-chancellor of the University of Rwanda, expressed gratitude in having “such a bright and engaged group of students from across the world (come) to the University of Rwanda for what I am sure will be a stimulating and fruitful week of discussions.”
Terri Jacques, senior scholarships and fellowships officer at ACU, said: “The ACU strongly believes that higher education has a crucial role to play in the SDGs, and this year’s Commonwealth Summer School is our latest activity to focus on this issue.
“The event provides an important opportunity for young researchers – some of whom have never travelled outside their country before – to come together, learn from each other, and start thinking about solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.”