Investing in women pays off. It is an effective means to reduce poverty and accelerate the achievement of the rest of the millennium development goals.
After1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and in response to the increased need for humanitarian support, promotion and improvement of the socio-economic welfare of women in Rwanda was very necessary.
The government of national unity, embarked on activities that are primarily directed towards enhancing women’s efforts to meet their basic needs.
The government initiated various activities including construction of houses for women, rehabilitation of rape survivors and support for income generating activities to widows and orphans.
Immediately after genocide, many women found themselves suddenly thrust into the role of head of household, some having to take in orphans.
The government together with some international NGO’s put up measures to help them improve on their social and economic status.
Important to mention, is also that in order to address severe trauma that women suffered as a result of the extreme violence they experienced during the genocide, the government put up centres where women survivors could receive relatively low health care services.
Some NGOs such as Rwanda Women’s Network were able to build houses for some of the women having problems with shelter.
After going through severe challenges during the Genocide, women have played an important role in the reconstruction and development of the nation.
The election of quite a good number of women in various leadership positions, as well as having a good number of them in parliament, signifies the acknowledgment that women have a role to play as leaders.
The government has also created a good political opportunity for women to engage in various public development affairs and initiatives.
In post-genocide Rwanda, women have been encouraged to be exemplary to others in our communities’ right from grass root levels.
It should be understood that the efforts to reconcile all sectors of the society in order to rebuild the country, also translated into the involvement of women in political leadership.
Rwanda has been lauded for having achieved 50 percent of women in parliament, making it the first country in Africa to reach such a target.
Rwanda has demonstrated that with the right legal framework promoting participation of women, and political will, gender parity in parliament can be achieved.
The country’s constitution stipulates 30 percent women at every decision making level. In addition, the electoral law also reserves 30 slots for women and there are resources to help women campaign for elections.
As far as income generating activities is concerned, Rwandan women have partnered with young American entrepreneurs to engage in business initiatives.
The formation of INDEGO Africa, a group that works mainly with rural women in Rwanda to market their handicrafts in various foreign countries, has uplifted the standard of living for many rural women.
For generations, women in Rwanda have been weaving baskets and making other crafts that were rarely marketed beyond the East African Community.
The meager earnings were barely enough to sustain them and their communities.
They make and sell handcrafts in various European markets. INDEGO gives the Rwandan women 100 percent of the profits from their products sold in these countries.
These women, many of them belonging to a village cooperative, are then taught how to manage their finances and manage a modern business.
Today’s women involvement in various national development strategies and activities shows that the government values them as integral and important members of Rwanda’s society.
In today’s Rwanda, change of cultural beliefs through gender based regulatory mechanism has been crucial to the country’s fast progress.