Yesterday, Rwanda joined the rest of the world to mark International Women’s Day under the theme Preserving the dignity regained. Internationally, it was celebrated under the theme Be Bold for Change.
The event served as a platform to reflect on the achievements registered so far, the challenges and the way forward in regards to women empowerment in Rwanda.
Currently, women make up 52 per cent of Rwanda’s population; the country was ranked 6th worldwide in the World Economic Gender Gap Report 2015, up from 7th position in 2014.
The report ranks 145 countries on their ability to close the gender gap in four fundamental areas: economic participation and opportunity, education, health and survival, and political empowerment.
However, despite an impressive record on gender equality, challenges still prevail.
Godfrey Gakwandi, the programme manager at Tearfund Rwanda, a non-governmental organisation says that women still face challenges that prevent them from attaining full empowerment.
Some of the challenges, he says, include lack of access to key information, for example, on how to access financial services, business enterprises, entrepreneurship, market access and linkages.
“Lack of such basic information impedes women empowerment as it hinders confidence-building, making them vulnerable to poverty. Women are capable in all areas and the only enemy to their empowerment is lack of access to information on critical issues affecting them and they end up with lack of confidence,” Gakwandi points out.
The programme manager suggests that for such plight to be addressed there is need to design programmes or projects at village level based on their capacity, and locally available resources to ensure that women are at the centre or are the leading participants.
Promoting areas where women have expertise and building their capacity is another way that can ensure empowerment, he says.
Real transformation cannot happen if women are not active participants. Empowering women is equal to sustainable development, Gakwandi adds.
Bosco Murangira, the director in charge of women empowerment, at Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, says that the Ministry is working hard to ensure women empowerment is taken to the next level.
Ensuring that policy and legal instruments are non-prohibitive is one way they are breaking barriers to empowerment. “We are also putting in place programmes that empower women and young girls in all aspects whether economic or social,” he adds.
Ensuring that gender is mainstreamed across all sectors for example in government, the private sector and civil society organisations, is another step we are taking, the director points out.
“Currently we are mobilising and linking women to the existing opportunities so that the tremendous achievements attained in the last 22 years are maintained and that further steps to have women at the forefront locally, regionally and internationally are taken,” Murangira adds.
Women share their views
Annet Imbabazi, a business woman, says that the government has done a lot when it comes to women empowerment and that it’s now time for women to grab the opportunities presented to them.
“Whether its economic or social affairs, women are presented with great offers and I think if we grab and use them accordingly, we will be helping ourselves in achieving the empowerment, we deserve,” Imbabazi says.
She adds that some women still have an inferiority complex in them; however, they shouldn’t let the past haunt and determine their future.
Maureen Mukamwezi, a stay-at-home mother, says that women have indeed overcome so many challenges to get to where they are now. However, she says that they still need to be more aggressive to see that they get to where their male counterparts are.
“If one compares now and 10 years back, there is a huge difference in regards to women empowerment, but this is not it, we need to do more and see that whatever we put our minds to, we do it excellently and never allow to be deterred by the fact that we are women,” she advises.
Mukamwezi also calls upon both men and women to join hands to see that victory is achieved and a world where all people are equal is attained.
Harriet Mutamba, a university graduate, shares a similar view saying that men should be part of the fight for gender equality because without them, little success will be achieved.
“We need to work together as a team with men such that they don’t feel like we are trying to overtake them. All we need is equality and better living conditions that can help both men and women to strive in all aspects of their lives,” she says.