“The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the world’s population and promotes in men harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations. There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge,” UNDP.
This was demonstrated by Kigali Veterans Co-operation Society [KVCS] commonly known as Ndabaga members who ended their 44-days of pitching camp at the Germany embassy.
This association is made up of women who served in the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) and those whose husbands died during and after the liberation.
They are thus part of the struggle—the patriots who fought and ousted the despotic regime of Juvenal Habyarimana, in 1994.
“The association does not call itself Ndabaga by accident. The name has big historical connotations. There was a man who was serving in the King’s palace, but had not had a chance to produce a boy. He had only girls. He therefore had no baby boy to inherit his wealth, when he grew old, since girls were not allowed to do so. The elder daughter (Ndabaga) took the challenge and disguised as a boy, in order to take over his fathers estate. The father allowed her but knew that both (father and daughter), would be killed if discovered. As expected, the girl was discovered at the palace masquerading as a boy hence, her father was summoned. But when the father narrated the whole story behind the disguise, to the King, he and the daughter were instead rewarded with many cows and a big chunk of land. From then, the girl by the name of Nbaga became a hero. She went further to be involved in active combat to protect the King,” says Dr. Eugene Ndabaga.
Dr. Ndabaga also admits that his father gave him the name (Ndabaga) because of the historical connotation it carries.
“I also feel great to have such a name,” he adds jokingly.
The women had pitched camp at the embassy to protest the arrest of the Chief of State Protocol, Rose Kabuye by the German police in Frankfurt. The implication is far reaching and shows how Rwandans and women in particular are ready to defend their country.
Rwandan women are no longer the ones we used to see in the backyard of our homes. They have gone beyond cooking and baby sitting, to defending their nation, whenever necessary.
This is a great sign of a transformed society embracing not only the fraternity of the weak, but also national cause. When Rwanda gave women a chance to come up in the process of rebuilding the nation, some pessimists ridiculed the trend of events.
They are thus proved wrong by the ‘dividends’, we get every day—they are subjected to total silence.
The Ndabaga women ‘show of cause’, should tell men and women who think that their emancipation is useless, to rethink otherwise. They are a power to reckon with.
You cannot achieve sustainable social, political and economic development when women are sidelined. Their contribution cuts across a number of factors, vital to improve people’s lifestyles and livelihoods.
Women however, still lag behind in the Rwandan society generally, and they therefore need a great push to be at the same levels at their male counterparts.
The underlying reasons are enormous as many, still nurse the inherited social stereotypes. Generally, the conditions under which African women have been participating in the development process have not enabled them, to enhance their capacity to utilize their physical and intellectual energies in promoting sustainable development.
Educational policies and plans have also limited the ability of women to fully utilize their intellectual energies in the management of their economies.
African states inherited gender stereotyped educational systems from the colonial states. This is what a country like Rwanda, is trying to reverse for the betterment of the whole society—a harsh history that was characterized by social inequalities.
They therefore need role models like Ndabaga Women Veterans Association. The association is so inspiring not only because of the historical name they have, but also the consistency it shows. The women have vowed to go on until justice is delivered to Rose Kabuye and Rwanda in general.