My name is Immaculate Ingabire and I am the Coordinator of Rwanda’s National Coalition on fighting violence against women. It is a joint project between different organizations including; UN Women, Profemme, Twese Hamwe and the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Ministry of Defense and Rwanda National Police.
I am an activist in gender promotion and my motivation came after the genocide that was committed against the Tutsi in Rwanda. When I arrived in Rwanda, I was a journalist by training.
When I went into the field in one of the communities, I met several women who were raped during the genocide and I was really shocked and scandalized by their testimonies.
Even though these women were raped, there were other forms of violence against women in Rwanda and no laws protected them. I therefore pursued a training course in Law because it was improper to get into this profession without any knowledge of the Law, Gender and Human Rights.
I dream to see Rwanda’s girls treated like their brothers. They should have equal rights. I was impressed to see that the best Science student was a girl in the 2010 National Examinations.
I want to see more Rwandan women as role models for the growing girl child. Through advocacy we can fill the gender gap and today, we are recording success.
In 1994, we only had 17 women in parliament and there was no woman mayor in the whole country; today we have the largest number of women in Parliament in whole world, including several local leadership positions.
We understand that a separated development is not possible. If you are looking for development, you must include women because they are capable of doing almost everything that men can do. We have the political will that was put in place by President Paul Kagame who made it an urgent agenda so that women did not miss out on any opportunities.
This was complicated at first because we faced resistance in the population’s behavior change. We had to encourage women to go to school and we knew we couldn’t have immediate results—some of the women had to work and school in the evening while attending to their homes as mothers.
We thank God because they understood that they had to be competitive and we see the results today. Civil laws have improved especially the one that prevents violence against women, the inheritance law has allowed women to own land and property and the law on Children Rights is in place.
I dream of a society where girls and boys, men and women have equal rights and equal opportunities. To achieve this dream, we have to eradicate all forms of violence against women in this country.
My vision in leadership is not in high positions, no; I want to see girls leading in their childhood groups, committed, intelligent and fight for space. None will fight for our rights, unless we do so.
International Women’s’ Day is a day of advocacy, to speak out loudly about women’s rights as a tool of development. Women can do it because we have the right to make it in life, policy makers understand this and they should not let us down.