Mary Gahonzire, the Commissioner General of Prisons is one of the most influential women in Rwanda. She was previously the Deputy Commissioner General of Police, all positions that have played an important role in her life and those she has led.
Gahonzire has a lot to say about women’s diverse role and participation in the development of Rwanda.
“Gone are the days when we used to say this job requires a lot of muscle, because it’s exclusively for men,” she said, “it’s not a question of who is stronger or what culture you are in, it’s a question of commitment; men are not made out of a more unique material, the overall obligation is to respond to the call of commitment.”
Gahonzire said Rwanda’s women are, “the mothers of this nation; they raise children and take care of society. Women are the backbone, protection and security within society.
In the entire African setup women have always been instrumental socially, economically and politically. As they interact with the bigger world and society, their contribution is felt beyond the family setup.
“It’s all about hard work, it’s all about vision, and it’s most importantly about the empowerment from our government,” she said.
Gahonzire was born way back in the late 1960’s, and was raised together with her sister by parents who led a refugee life in Uganda.
“I was not fortunate enough to be raised in this country; my parents were in refugees in Uganda,” she said.
Despite difficult circumstances, she acquired her education through Mpanga and Kamwezi Primary schools respectively and later joined Wanyange Girls School Jinja and Caltech Academy Makerere for her secondary education before joining Makerere University Kampala.
Education Gahonzire said was a prerequisite from her parents.
“My parents and sister were very instrumental and supportive in shaping who I am today,” she said.
When it comes to leadership, Gahonzire said, entering leadership was spontaneous. She recalls how her leadership journey begun.
“Soon after university, I remember going to sit for public service interviews. That was the time when we decided to team up; together with a team of Rwandese boys… and some of them are here in leadership today, we all decided to choose something concrete to follow and I chose the Police,” Gahonzire said.
“I didn’t think it was a man’s job per say because we were all in university and never at any one particular time did I think that there were jobs exclusively for men or for women... and my friends never thought so either,” she said.
Women have participated in the political liberation of Rwanda and have excelled. Gahonzire said it’s the major fulcrum is a direct result of the good leadership that enables women to thrive.
“Never before in our history have Rwandese women been empowered this much, it’s a blessing to all of us Rwandese but more especially for the women.”
This is where the Prison’s commissioner derives her inspiration.
“My inspiration fits within the mainstream of good leadership, the trust in us and that’s why we can do it as Rwandese women.”
According to Gahonzire, Rwandan women have been given the chance and all women have been performing and doing well at grass root levels, in Parliament, Senate and in various businesses. She said that once women are entrusted with responsibility, they really feel the need to deliver because of the trust, inspiration and the vision given by the leadership of this country.
“My biggest achievement is giving service to mankind, my country, my motherland. This is what makes me feel satisfied.”
Gahonzire said that her happiest moment is when Rwanda and its entire people achieve something. However, she dislikes seeing people suffering or doing bad things. That’s why she said, “I am drawn towards a career that is more inclined towards human rights observance.”
Gahonzire’s role models are quite many and keep changing as she grows. Influential women like Mother Theresa, Margaret Thatcher, Mariah Carey and many others have inspired her life in different aspects.
On Wednesday, various living in prisons were placed in Kindergartens while the older ones above 3 years of age were rehabilitated into inmate’s families or close families.
“I love children and these children are innocent. It’s our responsibility as leaders to ensure that they are comfortable through enabling them to grow up in good conditions,” she said.
Like Henry Kissinger said: ‘The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.’
Gahonzire has a sure vision for the future.
“My vision is making prison service a better place,” she said.
The Commissioner General of Prisons, encourages more women to take charge and participate in all activities and spheres that are available in order to fast track Rwanda into development.
“Women are capable, they have done great things and I don’t see why young women cannot even do greater things. The sky is the limit.”