More than 1,500 women drawn from more than 10 regional countries are attending this year’s Seventh Day Adventist Church International Women’s Congress in Huye District, Southern Province where they are sharing experiences in gender equality.
To begin with, it is hugely uplifting that a religious group is actively encouraging debate among its members about such an important public issue as gender equality.
Religions that shy away from such issues of national importance should revisit their policies and borrow a leaf from those that are getting it right.
Gender equality and women empowerment are critical subjects in modern-day society and there is need for an all-inclusive, multidisciplinary approach to successfully advance these values.
In many communities, including most African countries, women constitute more than half their respective country’s populations and, therefore, ignoring them or perpetuating practices that inhibit their progress deprives nations of a critical resource.
Secondly, women empowerment is a rights issue; it should never be viewed as a favour accorded to women. From Rwanda’s experience, it is evident that policies that promote men and women in equal measure is the right thing to do.
Unfortunately this has not always been the case. Women have generally found themselves in a disadvantaged position compared to men, and even in countries where they are increasingly taking their place they are playing catch-up.
The role of both men and women in society should be viewed through the same lens – to leave this world a better place.
It is important that participants at the Adventist congress in Huye return to their respective countries with a clear message: Sideline women at your own peril.