What I want for the women of Rwanda is what I want for women worldwide. Women of tomorrow should be free from violence. They should speak out and be heard in society.
The mother image remains admirable in the Rwandan society. A mother is the early riser and the late sleeper, who tries to make ends meet: Her career, home chores and costs require extra effort.
All mothers are working mothers; the difference is that some are partly paid for their work. African girls are prepared to become mothers at a tender age.
This is illustrated by the banana fibre and cloth dolls little girls carry on their backs. When she gets tired, she turns to her mother to be carried.
Girls are taught to carry babies on their backs and this is the motherhood factor that cultural emphasis puts on her presumed “inherent” domestic nature of nurturing children and home maintenance.
At 18 years, while boys hang out with friends, girls are expected to be at home either because they have protective parents or unfinished chores to settle.
At 21 years and married, she struggles to keep her home intact. She competes with her male counterparts for the same career. She struggles for national development while she prays to conceive.
Pregnant at last, as “expected” by her society, she drags her feet to the office, or garden; she has to produce results or else gets thrown out. She proudly gives birth but has to get back to work.
A nation needs me, I need to be there to rebuild it, there is untilled ground and my family needs food, and I shall till the ground, fetch water, collect firewood: She alone knows what it takes. Tears, backaches, sick baby, the career glass-ceiling—she handles it smartly. A mother is a hero to be celebrated.
Trained from childhood to be a mother, she only has a few hours to know her children’s needs if she wants to make their dreams come true. She understands that unfulfilled dreams will affect her daughter’s future.
So she sleeps late nursing her daughter and wakes up early to go to work.
‘Once a mother, forever a mother’—it’s an adventure worth trying. Remember the mothers of old who managed to raise us all. Remember that men are made great by their mothers.
George Washington 1732-1799 said, “All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
Winnie MUHUMUZA is a Gender Specialist at Rwanda’s Ministry of Education