Women’s Day: make the numbers count

So our women have taken to the skies! the national carrier; Rwandair on the International Women’s Day let the world know that our very own Esther Mbabazi will go down the annals of history as the first Rwandan woman pilot.
Paul Ntambara
Paul Ntambara

So our women have taken to the skies! the national carrier; Rwandair on the International Women’s Day let the world know that our very own Esther Mbabazi will go down the annals of history as the first Rwandan woman pilot.

Small feat you think? Well it is one step for Mbabazi but a giant leap for Rwanda (sounds familiar). The celebration of International Women’s Day in Rwanda comes with added meaning given the county’s recent history. About 19 years ago, the country was brought to its knees by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed over one million lives.

In addition, different weapons like guns, clubs and machetes were used during this tragic epoch in the country’s history. Besides, women faced the full brunt of rape. As this newspaper’s correspondent in the Southern Province a few years ago, I listened to countless heart rending testimonies of women, some in their late 70’s recounting the ordeal they went through at the hands of beastly génocidaires, and how they were gang raped and left for dead.

Those who survived had to face up to the challenge of rebuilding their lives and providing for their families. It has been a long, painful journey that has seen women that we celebrate today raise up to claim their rightful position in the Rwandan society.

Government’s realisation that women can play a pivotal role in the rebuilding of the country laid the foundation for this renaissance. With the highest women representation in parliament in the world, Rwanda has demonstrated its commitment to empower women not just in words but in practice.

And this has been replicated at all levels be it in the private or public sector. The celebration of International Women’s Day is an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved especially 19 years after the 1994 Genocide, the challenges and the future of the Rwandan woman.

To consolidate these gains, it is not the numbers that will matter at the end of the day but what the numbers will be able to deliver in the process of nation building. Today, we are witnessing women claim their stake in previously male dominated fields not only in government and academia but also in the service sector.

Only recently, I boarded a taxi and to the amusement of many, the person at the steering wheel was a woman. All through the journey, I imagined it was my mother on the wheel, this brought with it an assuredness that all will be well on the road knowing how cool headed my mother can be on the wheel. Now, this is the trait that we would want to see resonate through all fields in which women are claiming a stake.

For example, the growing number of female drivers should mean more sanity on roads. In local government, this should translate into proper service delivery, ensuring that funds are properly managed and so on.

But even as women stand up to take the mantle, they need protection. Domestic violence remains a scar on the women emancipation drive. News of women being killed by their spouses continues to fill news pages. This is a constant reminder that the battle is not yet won.

Women have come a long way, they can only get better, and not even the sky is the limit! Happy belated International Women’s Day.

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