The Ministry of Gender and Family Planning Promotion (MIGEPROF) in collaboration with stakeholders is organizing to celebrate the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2012 with the rest of the world. The cerebrations are organized under the theme: ‘Empower Women and Girls to Sustain Families”.
Unlike the previous years, the International Women’s Day ceremony will this year usher in month-long celebrations of Rwanda’s success stories in women empowerment in various socioeconomic development aspects—dubbed “Rwanda Women and Girls’ Month 2012”.
Each week during this month, activities will be carried out nationwide focusing on the following areas; Fighting Malnutrition, Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women, Promoting Girls’ Education and Women and Good Governance.
Every week will carry a theme, where each lead institution will spearhead all the activities involved.
The first week will focus on Fighting Malnutrition. The Ministry of Health (MINISANTE) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) will lead activities on this focus.
MINISANTE will engage in creating public awareness of the health sector services available in this initiative in collaboration with various stakeholders and community members.
Activities at the community level will agricultural demonstrations on how to establish a good kitchen garden, what composes and how to plan and prepare nutritious meals. Women work well together and in the process learn from each other.
An effort to bring together women from the community to discuss and learn together (Igikoni cy’Umudugudu) will make an impact on the whole community. This will also create a support system within the communities to respond to malnutrition and a communal ownership for the health of all individuals. Support in the form of seeds and start up livestock will then be provided to families affected by malnutrition. All this will ensure food security and healthy nutrition for the families. Women can live to their full potential only when they are healthy. Unfortunately, they experience many health risks and due to their positions in families, women are often taking care of others and not of themselves. Women need to be encouraged to take good care of their own health. Other members of the family also need to promote the health of the women in their families and communities.
The fight against malnutrition is currently a nationwide campaign with a target of seeing an end to malnutrition by March 2012. Malnutrition greatly affects women and children especially pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. As mothers, home makers and care takers, women play a vital part and are well placed to end malnutrition if properly educated and equipped with resources, knowledge and the skills they need to prepare nutritious meals for their families and ensure that the children under their care are well fed and healthy. The Women and Girls’ Month will therefore focus on the fight against malnutrition as part of the campaign to end malnutrition in Rwanda.
The second week will focus on Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women spearheaded by Ministry of Trade and Industry (MINICOM), Rwanda Cooperative Agency (RCA) and other financial institutions
Women will be mobilized to join cooperatives such as Umurenge SACCO and others in their communities. In order to support women who are financially unable to take such developmental steps, fellow women will be encouraged to make a financial contribution according to their abilities to enable these women open accounts in Umurenge SACCO.
Access to finance for development continues to be a big challenge for women. Without resources, women continue to face discrimination and other challenges including the “dependency syndrome”. Part of the issue is that women are not aware of the opportunities available to them and the need to access finance. There is therefore undoubtedly a need for awareness at the grassroots level on the need to develop a saving culture and the need to invest.
The FinScope report commissioned by National Bank of Rwanda back in 2010 found that men are more like to have access to financial services than women, 56.4 per cent of men compare to 47.7 per cent of women. The main reason for not using financial services for men and women is insufficient income. Men were more likely to report that they saved regularly with a financial institution than women, 22.4 per cent compared to 14.4 per cent.
A majority of men and women keep their savings at home. There was no difference between men and women in terms of borrowing from financial institutions, 10.4 per cent of men and 9.4 per cent of women. Women are less likely to use financial services than men because they a have lower levels of education earn less and less likely to be in waged employment. The main reason for women not having a bank account was not earning enough.
The third week will focus on Promoting Girls’ Education, and for that matter spearheaded by Ministry of Education.
In the pursuit to promote gender equality, promotion of girls’ education is one of the strategies that have been employed. There is a policy on girls’ education in place. This is an achievement to be celebrated. However there is a need to see a progressive increase in female participation in Technical and Vocational Training (TVET) and science and technology subjects.
The target of this week will be to create awareness on the importance of TVET and mobilize women and girls to participate. Efforts will also be directed to reducing illiteracy among women by providing basic adult literacy skills.
Teenage pregnancies and drug abuse are some of the factors that prevent girls from staying in school and completing successfully. In addition to being aware that education is provided, girls and families need to be aware of these hindrances and take part in preventing teenage pregnancies and drug abuse so that girls can complete school unhindered.
During this week, school going children will organize and participate in debates, music and drama on these issues and others relevant to them such as HIV/AIDS.
The fourth and ending week of the campaign will focus on Women and Good Governance whereby awareness will be created on the different laws in place on women and girls’ rights and efforts will be made to achieve expedited execution of judgment and resolution of Gender Based Violence (GBV) cases in the communities.
Rwanda has made tremendous progress in attaining good governance and women have been a large part of this progress. Progressive development relies heavily on clean leadership, responsible citizenship and good governance.
Notably, the fight against gender based violence is one area where Rwanda has made numerous efforts and progress has been made. It is also an area where progress is never enough until the vice completely eradicated. Therefore efforts to fight against gender based violence and other forms of social injustice against women and girls in particular, will continue until there is no gender based violence in Rwanda.
In a bid to solve root causes of gender based violence, and also provide a support system for those affected by these attitudes and practices ‘Akagoroba k’Ababyeyi’ will be promoted during the ending week of the campaign as a means to discuss and solve challenges women and girls’ face. Rwandan women from the diaspora are encouraged to participate in these discussions and provide support to these women.
Conducive Legal & Regulatory Framework
Rwanda has made significant progress in putting in place a regulatory and policy framework to enable women to develop the skills and resources to compete in markets as well as fair and equal access to economic institutions. The Constitution legislates for gender equality and gender is mainstreamed in the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy.
There is a girls education policy designed to ensure that girls are not disadvantaged in the education system and the health policy specifically addresses women’s and children’s health needs. Women are guaranteed political representation through a 30 per cent quota for the House of Representatives and local authorities and a political voice from the grass roots up through the Women’s National Council.
The Civic Code has been amended to give legally married women equal rights to property ownership in marriage and on divorce and to inherit on the death of their husband. Daughters have an equal right to inherit with sons. The land law permits women to own and inherit land and the land of legally married couples has to be jointly registered. The labour laws provide for equal treatment at work and protection for pregnant and nursing women. There are no bars to women getting credit or owning property and provision was made for women to get access to credit through a targeted guaranteed fund.