The perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi used rape as a tool against women. Women were physically and sexually abused. They endured horrific acts of torture and rape.
Twenty years later, some women are still traumatised and have permanent scars- a bitter reminder of the horror they faced in 1994. But despite this sad past, women have tried to move on and be part of nation building.
Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi talked to a cross-section of women on their take about women empowerment over the last 20 years.
Yvette Jallade, Aegis Trust Senior Communications Officer
What Rwanda has achieved in the last 20 years is impressive. My family left Rwanda 23 years ago when I was just ten years old because our lives were under threat. At first I was scared of returning back home. But since I returned Rwanda has been the safest place I have lived.
The security in the country is every ones dream-you can even walk alone on streets at any time of day or night without being scared of anything.
In regards to women empowerment, it has been achieved at a large scale but the element of self confidence is still lacking in women. Some of the women need more exposure to boost their confidence. I have received young women looking for jobs with impressive education credentials but expressing themselves becomes hard because they lack assertiveness and confidence.
So I advise all young women out there to believe in themselves and they will achieve a lot.
Rebecca Mbabazi, student at APE Rugunga
As a young person who was born after the Genocide, based on the stories I have heard, I will say that my country has registered tremendous development. To a greater extent, girls have equal opportunities as boys in school.
One thing I wish that should be dealt with more seriously is the abuse of girls sexually and domestic violence which is still common is some homes especially in rural areas. Women and girls need protection because they are vulnerable.
Rachel Mbabazi, student at Kigali Christian School
Rwanda has developed so much in all sectors. The youth; both girls and boys have a role to play in the nation building process. During the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, the youth were used in the killings and bringing down this country and causing turmoil.
We don’t want that to ever happen again. It’s on those grounds that as a young woman, I have to be part of the nation building process. One thing I would wish the Rwandan society to deal with is protecting young girls against cross-generation relationships that are affecting girl’s progress in school thus hindering their future.
This is a social vice that all Rwandans should come up and address so as to protect the girl child. The sugar dad syndrome is threatening the future of young girls.
Evelyne Umurerwa, presenter at Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA)
Generally, Rwanda has achieved a lot in the last 20 years and women empowerment has been one of the achievements. However, despite several government policies in place to empower women, many are still scared to come out and reclaim their rights in society.
Women are discouraged by society norms and stereotypes which define particular roles for women and men. This has led to dependence on part of women. For instance some women can’t access credit to start-up businesses because they lack collateral. Others can’t inherit or own property.
Anita Kayirangwa, Programmes Manager at Rwanda Peace Education Programme
Peace is the greatest achievement Rwandans have achieved over the last 20 years. And peace is the most important factor needed to be able to achieve other things such as education, health, infrastructure and general economic growth.
The government set up policies that promote women empowerment so that women can be involved in the nation building process but some women are still scared of embracing their rights. To a great extent women and girls have attained capacity like their male counterparts. I believe that as women we are capable of doing great things and that way we will motivate and inspire others because we have the capacity and support to do it.
Eliane Ubalijoro, professor at McGill University in Canada
It’s amazing for me to see how far Rwanda has come. I visit Rwanda at least once a year and what astonishes me is the level of progress, energy, enthusiasm and the hope that has been put into transforming Rwanda.
In regards to women empowerment, I think the main challenges that Rwandan women face today is how they can enable their children achieve success, prosperity and enhance their creativity. It’s how they can continue to do so in both urban and rural areas.
I think the best solution to deal with these challenges is to continue working hard, enhance the ideals they have and how can they be supported in terms of access to the financial and technical expertise in order to move forward.
Adeline Muganyika, Information Technology expert
Rwandan women have been empowered in the most possible ways in the last 20 years.
Rwanda has the highest number of women representatives in parliament in the World. But one can’t say that the empowerment has been achieved 100% because there are still some inequalities especially in terms of acquiring jobs.
Women still face challenges when competing with men for jobs. Therefore the affirmative action policy should be respected in all fields in Rwanda.
Anita Pendo, journalist
Rwandan women have made it in such a short time. They are decision makers and actors in all sectors and they now know their rights unlike before when they faced injustices and discrimination on the basis of their sex.
However, there are still some women who are still scared of exercising their rights and it has also become so hard for women to juggle work and family responsibilities. I think all Rwandans have a role to play in empowering women especially family members and more so their husbands.
Favour Genevieve Uwikuzo, musician
In the last 20-years, women have gained confidence in whatever they do. Women have come out from their comfort zones and have been involved in different spheres of work to make ends meet despite the traumatizing moments they faced during the Genocide.
I can’t hesitate to say that there are still some challenges such as stereotypes and cultural barriers. I wish to advise all women and girls that as mothers of the nation, we have to do all we can and overcome these challenges, if we are to make Rwanda achieve its dream.
Aline Umugwaneza, Archivist at AEGIS
Rwandan women have achieved a lot in terms of education in the last 20 years. For example, the number of girls in high school and at University has increased thus giving them the opportunity to compete on the job market.
Although some Rwandan women still lack self confidence that inhibits them from achieving more, I believe there is need for more sensitisation using women role models so as to inspire young girls and women that they can too make it.