As the world attains greater levels of civilisation and campaigns for equality, human rights and democracy, gain momentum, some third world countries have also exhibited considerable strides as far as the issue of empowering women is concerned. Across almost all continents, there are outstanding initiatives directed towards fighting for the realisation of justice for women.
As a result women have an increased share of resources, a greater role in decision making and more participation in activities that drive society today.
In Africa, the leadership fraternity has already had a grand breakthrough. Liberian Johnson Serleaf, broke the silence, becoming the country’s first female president.
The United States, which is apparently perceived to be the fountain of modernity, is currently on the verge of having a female president.
It has been a long and enduring struggle for such a state to be attained, volumes and volumes of advocacy materials have been produced, and multiple conventions ratified to. But for along time, all those efforts have been futile. In various contexts, women from influential ones to housewives have been battered.
In Uganda, the former vice president, Dr. Specioza Wandera Kazibwe, used to be battered by her husband. Later, she went to court to seek divorce which was granted.
This manifests how the women’s dire situations of mistreatment, have not been threatened by how powerful they are in society.
Such situations have been perpetuated by our uncouth traditional beliefs, and stereotyped cultures, that give women a subordinate position to men. Such traditions have gone on to even influence women, to also think less of themselves, compared to men.
In most case, such perceptions have been defended with spiritual myopia, citing lines that the fact that Eve came from Adam’s rib, that puts women under men. However, the same Bible that is used to defend their plain mischievousness declares that women and men are supposed to be companions of each other.
Women here in Africa, have had their share of bitterness, injustice and marginalisation. This has profoundly witnessed in times of wars, where their vulnerable positions have exposed them to horrors like rape, defilement and others.
This has been eminent in many African countries with civil and political insurgencies.
However, it is profoundly reassuring to find that the same women, who have endured perilous journeys in their lives, in different contexts, have emerged and blossomed into an outstanding group in society today.
You can’t fail to recognise that women have been at the forefront in the fight for the restoration of their position and attainment of social justice and full empowerment.
Professor Wangari Mathai, a Kenyan women rights activist and environmentalist, was beaten and wounded during her struggle for women’s rights. It reached a point of being given a Nobel Prize, when she was on a stretcher.
Recently, here in Rwanda, the women under their association called Rwanda Association of University Women (RAUW) celebrated their grand breakthrough, of marking 36 per cent women representation in cabinet.
The association which was formed in 2006 now boasts of 390 subscribed members. This association is comprised of women who have attained university degrees, it is non sectarian.
It takes no political sides neither does it base subscription on colour, status or any other standard. The main objective of this association, according to its president ambassador, Joy Mukanyanje, is to promote human rights especially women’s education and life long term learning and every body should have the opportunity to learn any time in their life.
“Education is the foudermantal basis of development,’’ says the enthusiastic leader. This association also seeks to promote quality of life of women and girls in Rwanda.
Through promoting life long learning, economic empowerment of women, human rights protection, and generally promoting peace.
In order for RAUW to achieve its goals and objectives, it encourages and supports members to undertake higher education, or further studies, so that women and girls can have knowledge and skills, information access and wisdom creation the instruments of proper living, explained Mukanyanje.
The association also undertakes advocacy and consultancies for solution finding in areas of public life, according to Dr Shirley Randell, the secretary general of RAUW. The association, further fosters leadership participation and decision making cultures, at local, national and international levels.
Both on the domestic context and the international levels, successful women empowerment environment, has been significantly reinforced by the mother governments, advocacy houses and international pressure.
However, some governments have put a deaf ear on the pleas of women. And in some cases little efforts have been put in place to break the unfavourable stereotypes towards women.
The RAUW executive however, expressed its gratitude towards the Rwandan government, for creating a conducive atmosphere for women to realise their full potential, and generally their empowerment.