Tomorrow is International Women’s day. several activities will be carried out at different levels nationally and the women’s month will be launched as well. The first week will be dedicated to girl-child education, the second week will address women’s economic empowerment, the third will tackle issues of women social affairs and the last week will celebrate women in good governance and justice. Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi and Patrick Buchana interviewed four women to discover how the women’s movement is progressing.
More women access contraceptives: Fortune Kamanyana, midwife
Fortune Kamanyana, a registered midwife in charge of Family Planning at King Faisal Hospital (KFH) says that the number of women using family planning methods has increased compared to previous times.
“We work around the government health programme to address MDG 5 that by 2015 maternal mortality and infant mortality rate would have reduced completely. For example maternal mortality has reduced because women are using family planning methods. A few years ago here at King Faisal hospital 40% of women used contraceptives but in 2012, after looking at the number of women who give birth in this hospital, 70% are using different kinds of family planning methods,” Kamanyana reveals.
In 2010, the maternal mortality rate was 340 deaths/100,000 live births according to demographic statistics. For instance 1071 maternal deaths reduced to 476 thus maternal deaths have reduced by 50 per cent.
Kamanyana also revealed that the stereotypes of families having many children has changed completely.
“As a result of continuous awareness at all levels in the country regarding the importance of family planning, some barriers such as culture and religious beliefs have been broken to some extent. For example, men always thought that family planning was only a woman’s initiative but it’s now changing. Last year there were two men who had vasectomy. The number of men coming with their wives to select a specific family planning method to use has also increased. Family planning is a collective initiative for the couples and I can happily say that the future is bright,” Kamanyana expresses.
She also said that the existing challenge is the fact that some women who use shorter family planning methods such as pills or the three month injection tend to forget to take more pills or take another injection.
“I advise my fellow women while we are celebrating women‘s day and month to always celebrate their health as well. I advise them to use family planning methods to have a healthy and happy family,” she ends.
Economic empowerment is changing the livelihood of women: Oliver Nyirasabimana, Craft maker
The joyous 34-year-old Oliver Nyirasabimana narrates how life has changed her as she grasped the reins of her economic future.
“I didn’t get a chance to go to school, so I spent most of the time feeling sorry for myself. I got married but my husband is handicapped and so it was hard for him to fully support the family. In 2008, I got lucky and was trained by Women for Women International Rwanda in different programs such as hair dressing and crafting and making products out of beads. I enjoy beading and this is how I ended up here at Gahaya Gifted Hands,” she says.
The mother of four now earns between Rwf 80, 000 to Rwf 100, 000 a month.
“Although my children are all in school, I was able to renovate my house and buy a cow which also gave birth recently. I advise my fellow women to be true partners and help their husbands by working instead of sitting at home and waiting for the men to do everything,” she reveals.
She also advises housewives to get involved projects that uplift women economically.
“For example here at Gahaya we have small economic associations which we use to collect money amongst ourselves to help one another economically and socially,” Nyirasabimana explains.
Regarding the importance of celebrating International Women’s Day, she says, “We listen to inspiring testimonies from fellow women and these stories build confidence in us. We should emulate what these women have achieved. On this day we also get a chance to celebrate our achievements,” she says.
Women empowerment gaining momentum: Antennette Murenzi, Social Affairs Officer
“Women today are no longer afraid to share ideas or oppose what they think is wrong in district and sector meetings. The theme for this year has come at the right time when equal rights of women have indeed progressed.”
Antennette Murenzi, the Social Affairs Officer and Women Affairs specialist for Sector of Kinyinya, says women achievements should be celebrated while remaining vigilant and ensuring further sustainable change.
“In many meetings at the sector and district level, women today are no longer afraid to share ideas with men and oppose what they feel isn’t right. There is no difference between the voice of a man and women today.
“Women, in collaboration with their leaders, have also joined different co-operatives to bring change and development among the fairer sex. These co-operatives haven’t just stopped at that but have come up with Saccos, where contributions are made and given to women with great ideas but no capital,” she says.
However, is this climb to equality really balanced? Are women gaining power in their homes too?
Murenzi says the power of a woman in a home is the power of a family. Since more girls are being educated in secondary schools and universities, families are able to quickly build and sustain themselves.
“As for the case of domestic violence, we can’t say it’s totally ruled out. There are very few cases but I’m glad to say that many have been wiped out,” she added.
In traditional African cultural settings, education of the girl child was almost a taboo and if a girl went to school, the best and highest level she could reach was the junior level. It can’t be said that parents were primitive; perhaps they felt that girl child education was a waste of resources. But if someone entered a science faculty in a university today, they would be amazed at the participation of girls in different science faculties.
Jolie Ladegonde Mukase, Head mistress of Fawe Girls school, Gisozi talks about how girls education is on the rise in Rwanda.
“Starting with an example of my school which majors in sciences, unlike long time ago where girls shunned away from sciences, today we have more than 80% of the students requesting for science combinations in the advanced level of education.
“And it doesn’t just stop at that. they also show the urge to study and pass these exams. For example, last year, we had over 71% of our girls on government sponsorship for science courses. And the percentage keeps increasing per year for many girls in different schools,” she says.
However girls haven’t only shown this momentum in just education but other fields as well. East African Essay Writing competitions have taken place twice, both by Fawe Girls School.
“These competitions also have a number of schools in the region with boys as well, but it’s amazing to see that girls still emerge the best. It’s encouraging and shows the evolution of girl empowerment, reducing the gap between males and females.”