Understanding gender equality is a continuous dialogue

In 2003, Rwandans voted a constitution that guarantees a minimum of 30 per cent of parliamentary seats and other leadership positions to women.
Women Parliamentarians
Women Parliamentarians

In 2003, Rwandans voted a constitution that guarantees a minimum of 30 per cent of parliamentary seats and other leadership positions to women.

Today, Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians in the world with women constituting over 50 percent in the Chamber of Deputies and about 35 percent in the Senate. The Government also has 34 percent of women in its Cabinet.

The emancipation of Rwandan women is also especially indicated in the education area, where it has been demonstrated that if both boys and girls are given the same chance, girls perform just as well as their brothers.

Looking at 2012 education performance statistics, girls performed almost as well as boys. For primary education, out of all candidates who did national Primary Leaving Examinations, 45.1 percent were girls. In secondary schools, 49.8 percent of those who successfully passed the O’level national exams were females.

And for A’ level national exams, out of 30,845 students who sat, 44.7 percent who passed are female. This number has increased by 1.1 percent in comparison to the previous year.

Referring to the above few demonstrations, Rwandan women have been emancipated and participate in their country’s development. But there is still a long to go, especially in terms of explanation of that concept and making clear how it must be used.

Some Rwandan men still complain that women make gender equality a reason to dodge their family obligations.

Referring to his marriage experience, 36-year-old Marc Bagabo who is married with 4 children, says that gender equality crushes men.

He says he works all day and gets home late in the evening. However, his wife who is right now jobless, stays at home but refuses to take care of housework.

“She says that I must wash my own clothes and those of our children because it is gender equality,” he says.

Bagabo says that it’s in the name of gender equality that his wife doesn’t complete her duties at home.

“Most of the time our children are dirty and our home appears as uninhabited because of the grime. And the worst is that she tells me to do it myself since we are in the era of gender equality promotion,” he said.

Bagabo isn’t the only person with examples about gender equality misunderstanding since primary school teacher Euralie Mukakibibi, 42, agrees with him.

“Most of us do not understand what gender equality is,” says the mother of three children. “We confuse it with irresponsibility or inconsistency. I think we Rwandan women need more explanations about gender equality.”

She adds that even if she is literate, she can’t explain gender equality concept deeply because she honestly doesn’t know more about it.  

The gender technical advisor in the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Judith Kazaire, says when talking about gender equality, it must be understood in the way of husband and wife’s complementarity  and equal rights of decision making inside the family.

“Gender equality does not mean duties exchange or irresponsibility but equal chances between men and women,” she says.

She added that gender equality refers to equal right for both male and female children to access school and any other opportunities without discrimination.

Kazaire says that a major efforts are being made to highlight gender equality and make it more fruitful.

“More sensitization is being done in order to clarify what is gender equality and how it must be used, especially in the family, the smallest community where development must start,” she explained.

Rwanda celebrated the international women’s day last Friday and dedicated an entire month to campaigns about gender equality and women emancipation.

According to the United Nations’ entity in charge of gender equality and the empowerment of women, UN-Women, equality does not mean that women and men will become the same but theirrights, responsibilities, and opportunities will not depend on whether they are born male or female.

The agency says that perceptions, interests, needs, and priorities of both women and men must be taken into consideration not only as a matter of social justice but because they are necessary to enrich development processes.