First Lady calls for concerted efforts to empower families

The First Lady joined over 5000 residents of Cyahinda and Gisozi sectors, in Nyaruguru District yesterday, for the launch of the nationwide Family Campaign organised by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, and set to conclude on 25 November 2016.
First Lady Jeannette Kagame and government officials at the launch of the campaign to empower famillies in Nyaruguru District yesterday. (Village Urugwiro)
First Lady Jeannette Kagame and government officials at the launch of the campaign to empower famillies in Nyaruguru District yesterday. (Village Urugwiro)

The First Lady joined over 5000 residents of Cyahinda and Gisozi sectors, in Nyaruguru District yesterday, for the launch of the nationwide Family Campaign organised by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, and set to conclude on 25 November 2016.

This event was also a moment to celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, observed on that day, and the International Day of the Girl Child which is normally celebrated on October 11, and was attended by senior government officials from the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Justice, the Police and the Army, along with partners from the civil society, such as the ONE UN Family, Care International, Plan International, Girl Effect Rwanda; and various churches. Started in 2011, this nationwide family campaign aims to raise awareness and tackle various issues including, but not limited to, neglected children, gender-based and domestic violence, family conflicts, teenage pregnancy, low financial literacy, illiteracy, delinquency, and human trafficking.

 

As explained by Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Esperance Nyirasafari, this year’s campaign, ‘A family fit for children’, will focus on positive parenting practices to encourage parents to take a better and more holistic care of their children; while learning to take full advantage of financial services, to build a stronger base for the economic development of their family.

 

Though there are girl children who have engaged in education at various levels and have achieved a lot, as girls have understood the importance of taking a central place in the socio-economic and political affairs of this country, First Lady Jeannette Kagame has said that “we should remember that the teenage pregnancy rate stands at seven percent (7%).” “Sometimes one wonders if those responsible for getting underage girls pregnant, are punished in a way that match the life consequences faced by these teenage mothers and their future children ?”

 

The First Lady said that giving birth while still young has many consequences to them, expressing that what is saddening is that after these issues have occurred, those who impregnate them and/or parents abandon them. “All that comes with problems including deaths associated with abortion, giving birth to children without means to raise them, which can results into this other issue of street children which you also see,” she noted.

In fact, the First Lady said that taking care of the girl child is “the sustainable solution which gives us hope that we build the kind of society with families, that are appropriate for a child, to fully thrive in.” She also talked about the issues of trafficking of girls, mainly from districts near neighbouring countries.

She said that the country’s security organs do their best to bring back those girls, but she urged all community members to make use of the various programmes availed to them and requested the participants in the event to consider homegrown solutions and their community-based approaches to raising children.

On the celebration of the rural woman, the First Lady said that as the rural woman is being celebrated, people should remember that “the basic development that we chose is based on the full participation of women in all aspects of life.”

Francoise Uwumukiza, the president of National Women Council (CNF) noted that during the celebration of the Day countrywide, it is planned various activities including offering cows to 225 vulnerable families and awarding best performer for ‘Umugoroba w’ababyeyi’, or Parents’ evening meetings, organised in each sector of the country, to help strengthen family ties, and ensure that children’s rights are enforced.

Other activities include improving Early Childhood Development (ECD) in every district, and sensitising Rwandans about the ‘Tubarerere mu Muryango’ - Let’s raise children in families - programme. “We have committed to further sensitising women to take care of the education of children by fighting drug abuse, reducing school dropout rates, as well as human trafficking,” she noted. Ted Maly, the UNICEF representative in Rwanda, who spoke on behalf of the One UN in Rwanda, noted that the Government of Rwanda is rightly recognised for its commitment to gender equality, not just within education system, but throughout society. He said “positive parenting is a key component of ECD” – Early Childhood development -, which he said is led by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and championed by Imbuto Foundation in Rwanda.

“We know well the wide range of benefits when we work to empower girls and women: improved maternal health, reduced infant mortality and fertility rates, increased prevention against HIV and AIDS,” Maly said.

Empowerment of women

The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame noted that the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) indicated that the number of households headed by women who have accounts in financial institution has increased from 27 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2014. Forty two percent of them embraced the Hanga Umurimo – job creation – programme, while 46 percent joined savings and credits cooperatives. She pointed out that it is also pleasing that currently, 54 percent [of women] co-own land with their husbands in full understanding.

She said that it is pleasing that the government has helped reduce deaths of women who die while giving birth from 750 women out of 100,000 women to 210 at present, but stressed that more efforts are needed to sensitise women to give birth at health facilities, to ensure ‘no more women die while giving life’. This event also featured a testimony by Joselyne Izere Mucunguzi, a student from Mère du Verbe, who was awarded for academic excellence by Imbuto Foundation.

In her testimony, Mucunguzi thanked Imbuto Foundation for contributing to mindset change, encouraging families to let go of traditional attitudes which made girls focus on domestic chores, rather than seeking more education for themselves. This event saw members of ‘umugoroba w’ababyeyi’ recognised for their dedicated work for the strengthening of family ties and protecting the rights of children in their communities; awarding cows to ‘Malayika Murinzi’, these guardian angels who embody the philosophy of ‘treat every child as your own’ by caring for vulnerable children in their communities; and the giving of cows also to vulnerable families, as a means to economically empower them. This event also included an exhibition of products from women and youth cooperatives, including coffee, textile products, art crafts, among others.

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