LAST WEEK, a new cabinet was sworn in after Anastase Murekezi was appointed new Prime Minister. Although women generally constitute 34% of the new cabinet, three of them are making it to cabinet for the first time.
They include Judith Uwizeye, Minister of Public Service and Labour, Geraldine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources and Germaine Kamayirese, Minister of State in Charge of Energy, Water and Sanitation in the Ministry of Infrastructure.
Women Today’s Doreen Umutesi interviewed the new female cabinet ministers on a range of issues and what they plan to do.
Germaine Kamayirese, Minister of State in Charge of Energy, Water and Sanitation in the Ministry of Infrastructure.
Before being appointed as the Minister of State in Charge of Energy, Water and Sanitation in the Ministry of Infrastructure (MININFRA), Kamayirese was working as a network specialist at Tigo-Rwanda.
The soft-spoken Kamayirese said that she never thought she would hold such a position in her entire life.
“When I was informed about my new role, I was happy and surprised at the same time because I was not expecting it. I realised that the President entrusted me with the responsibility of ensuring that Rwandans get the basic needs which is water and energy and which I will do to the best of my ability,” Kamayirese said.
The mother of three was born on August, 5 1981 in Kiyovu sector, Nyarugenge District.
Kamayirese is a graduate of Electromechanical Engineering from Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST). She also holds a Master’s in Communication Management from Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in collaboration with Coventry University in the United Kingdom in 2009.
Asked about what inspired her into taking on science subjects which during her childhood times were considered a male domain, she said that sciences offer tangible results.
“I was passionate about sciences from my childhood but I think I enjoyed the fact that science offers tangible results and solutions. I was also lucky that I excelled in school like my male counterparts and it proved that I was capable,” Kamayirese explained.
Kamayirese was also an advisor at the Institute of Engineering Architecture Rwanda from 2010 to 2011 and is currently a member of Rwanda Women Engineers Association (RWEA).
“We are lucky that in Rwanda women are given opportunities. I wish to advise young girls that they should not be scared of taking on roles and opportunities because of the misconceptions that women or girls can’t do this or that. We need more girls to embrace sciences especially in technology because we want more women in the field,” Kamayirese noted.
When asked what she has to say about the issue of water shortage, especially in Kigali, given that the water distribution is in her docket, she said: “Shortage of water is an issue because water is a basic need. It’s one of the many things that we are planning to address. Most of these shortages are caused during road construction works where the water pipes are accidentally damaged. But we will deal with the issue soon.”
Judith Uwizeye, Minister of Public Service and Labour.
Uwizeye was an international economics and business law professor of the University of Rwanda, Huye campus, before her new posting.
“I never expected to be a minister. But I’m happy for the trust granted to me. I will miss teaching because I enjoy it, especially when I see people I have trained in the field practicing. It gives me satisfaction. But when you’re entrusted and given another position you embrace it too,” Uwizeye said.
Uwizeye who was born on August 20 1979 graduated from the National University of Rwanda with a Bachelor’s degree in law.
She went for further studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands where she obtained a Master’s degree in international economics and business law.
When asked if her childhood dream had ever come close to this position, she said: “I can’t tell you that I expected to be in such a position. On the other hand, as a child I believed there could be a time when I would be in a leadership position but not a minister,” Uwizeye said.
In 2006, Uwizeye began teaching in the faculty of law at the former National University of Rwanda before it was merged with other public higher institutions of learning to become University of Rwanda.
In a phone interview, Uwizeye’s husband, Manase Ntihinyurwa, said that it’s hard to find the right words to really express the joy he had when he received the news that his wife was going to be a minister.
“I was very happy and so was my family. We were not just happy that she had become a minister, we were also happy that her position is proof that women are able. It’s a motivator for young women to work hard and also believe that they are capable of achieving greatness,” Ntihinyurwa said.
Ntihinyurwa is a customs officer at Rwanda Revenue Authority.
Uwizeye advises young women and girls to work hard and respect what they do because it gives them the potential to excel and be recognised.
“My advice to young girls out there is that their actions or work can really speak volumes. When you perform well, you’re putting yourself on the path of becoming someone great. Good work is acknowledged,” Uwizeye explained.
Uwizeye was the deputy coordinator of CASS/ Legal Aid Clinic College of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Rwanda as well as a board member of Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).
Uwizeye is a mother of two; her youngest child being an 18-month-old boy.
“I spend most of my free time with my family. The children are still very young and they need my attention. I know my free time schedule is slightly going to change because as a lecturer when students are on vacation, you’re on vacation as well. Here it’s slightly different, but I will be able to adjust and spend time with my family as required,” Uwizeye said.
When asked if there are expectations of revising the changes and reforms that were underway in the Public Service Ministry before her appointment, Uwizeye said: “There is what we call continuity of services, so we can’t change the reforms. It’s by the way a good policy because it improves the efficiency of our staff, it’s very important. It not a policy of one person but it’s for the government.”
Geraldine Mukeshimana, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources
Mukeshimana worked at International Livestock Research Institute in the department that oversees biosciences in East and Central Africa located in Nairobi before her new position. Mukeshimana, like her counterparts, said her appointment came as a surprise.
“I didn’t expect it at all. But when I was appointed, I told myself, this is an opportunity to serve my country and Rwandans and I’m happy about it,” Mukeshimana said.
Mukeshimana was born on December 10, 1970 in the current Huye District. She obtained a degree in agriculture engineering from the former National University of Rwanda. She also holds a master’s degree and a PhD in plant breeding, genetics, and biotechnology from Michigan State University.
When asked if as a child she expected to hold such a position she said: “I had never thought about it but I think for such positions, every Rwandan is a candidate (she laughs). There is really nothing special. If you are called to serve your country, you take on the job but if it does not happen, I believe one can continue to do their job. We need to take life as it is.”
Before working as the national coordinator of the Rural Support Programme (RSSP) which was a project on rural transformation of the agricultural landscape between 2006 and 2008, Mukeshimana was a lecturer at the former National University of Rwanda.
In regards to what inspired her into embracing sciences and research which are known to be male dominated, Mukeshimana said: “I was born in a male-dominated family, so I never felt that
I was a special child or that I was different from my brothers. So I can say I never felt that sciences were for only boys. I was lucky to go to a science school. Even in the field I never felt lonely. I fit in well with male students.”
The Minister asks young girls not to shy away from sciences.
“We are lucky we have a supportive government that recognises women as people that are capable. Of course we have some biological differences as women and men, but we should not use it as something to limit our potential. Women and men have the same brain, therefore as women if we are given the opportunity to serve our country, then we should serve,” Mukeshimana said.
In 2012, she was recognised by International Food & Agriculture Development (BIFAD) for her significant contribution to the breeding of the common bean for drought tolerance and disease resistance.
When asked about the key issues she plans to handle in her new role, she said: “I feel that the main mandate of this ministry is to enhance food and nutrition security. So we are going to work as hard as we can to increase plant and animal productivity although we are facing climate challenges. We will do the best we can.”
She has also served on various boards ranging from being chairperson Board of Directors of Rwanda Tea Authority, vice chairperson Board of Directors of Kigali Institute of Technology and a board member of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
She has authored many publications largely on crop breeding.
In a phone interview, Mukeshimana’s husband, Adelit Nsabimana, said that the news about his wife becoming a minister was extremely exciting.
“It was interesting news for us as a family because the government has given her a chance to use her knowledge and expertise to serve the country and Rwandans as well. I can say that it was nice but surprising news because we didn’t expect it,” Nsabimana said.
Nsabimana is currently finishing his doctorate studies at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
The other women in cabinet
- Dr. Agnes Binagwaho - Minister of Health
- Venantia Tugireyezu - Minister in the Office of the President
- Dr. Alvera Mukabaramba - Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government in Charge of Social Affairs
- Oda Gasinzigwa - Minister of Gender and Family Promotion in the Prime Minister’s Office
- Louise Mushikiwabo - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
- Valentine Rugwabiza - Minister of East African Community
- Seraphine Mukantabana - Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs
- Stella Ford Mugabo - Minister of Cabinet Affairs