The Rwandan model vital to women’s liberation
Written by: George Kalisa
Monday, March 12th, 2018, 17:06
Formerly traditional limitations and bad governance confined Rwandan women to domestic chores, producing children until the natural expiry date of the uterus, ensuring food security in households through traditional and rudimentary farming, accepting a husband’s beating whenever they deemed it necessary and denial of the right to education of their daughters without question and appreciating taboo forbidding them from participating in all community affairs though they felt the pinch of bad decision more.
Still, traditions and bad governance capped and corrupted their minds and knowledge to appreciate the exclusive ownership and management of all property ranging from land, household assets including livestock by men who only and only expected absolute submissiveness from women.
Shockingly, even the Church which preaches that Jesus Christ died for all humans had for long been reluctant to ordain them as clerics leave alone letting them serve as deaconesses and Church ministers.
Felicite Rwemarika a famed sportswoman recently said at a press conference at Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Centre that if women had shared authority with men like today the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi would never have happened that they could not allow men to slaughter the fruits of their wombs like animals.
In this male dominated Rwandan society a woman was more or less a man’s property. Things changed when President Paul Kagame led-government changed the mindset of Rwandans and ultimately said enough was enough, women’s rights and freedoms had to be respected in the new Rwanda that was midwifed in 1994 after putting the last nail to the genocide regimes and their divisive politics that upheld gender disparities and polarization of the Rwandan society along ethnicity lines.
Unfortunately, a similar situation still flourishes in many countries despite worldwide campaigns to end women’s oppression that is manifested in social, economic and political spheres.
Since Rwanda started demonstrating the political will to prioritize the plight of women, the 64 per cent of women in political leadership has translated in uplifting of the wellbeing of women in both measurable and immeasurable parameters. However, the few lines below divulge deeper into the measurable parameters.
The FPR-Inkotanyi government adheres toculture of constitutionalism which itstarted after the return of the rule law to the east African nation. Article 16 of the 2003 Constitution protects Rwandans from discrimination of any form.
“All Rwandans are born and remain equal in rights and freedoms. Discrimination of any kind or its propaganda based on, inter alia, ethnic origin, family or ancestry, clan, skin colour or race, sex…any other form of discrimination are prohibited and punishable by law.”
Hence, Rwandan women are no longer limited by gender to ascend to leadership positions. Merit prevails over other social,economic and physical factorsone’s gender included in ascension to any political office in Rwanda and all citizens have equal opportunities.
Most women contend that women politicians in Rwanda have utilized their positions to cause structural and institutional reforms in social, political and economic domains with the view to promote equality and eliminate oppression of formerly marginalized sections of the Rwandan population, women included.
This has successfullybeen attained through legal and constitutional reforms engineered by women leaders that uphold equality of all persons. For instance, the 2003 Rwandan Constitution respects equal rights to family and household assets including land.
Women speak out
Dr. ShivonByamukama, the Company Secretary and Head Corporate Affairs of Bank of Kigali (BK) said that Rwandan women today enjoy increased access to more economic opportunities compared to the past genocide governments and to their counterparts in countries with male dominated assemblies. She spoke to this reporter during a sideline exclusive interview at the stakeholders’ validation meeting on forests at Kigali Serena Hotel recently.
She views women’s high representation in terms of increased visibility of Rwandan women in society,a remedy to stigma in women that they are inferior to men.
Dr. Byamukama further says that Rwandan young girls and rural women who previously underestimated their potential to achieve can now be inspired by the women achievers to work hard.
“The women leaders are role models in the Rwandan society. This achievement helps the women down there to work hard with the conviction that they will live a desirable life if they commit more efforts to work,” said Dr. Byamukama.
“As to why some women still grapple with biting poverty, the same factors explain why some men are poor – things are tough generally, one’s environment largely determines his or her success,” added Dr. Byamukama.
Dr. Byamukama says that the laws on the equality of men and women that Rwanda follows to the letter guarantee equal opportunities be it economic or political.
“For example Rwandan women have a right to inherit land according to the 2003 Rwandan Constitution and can use it as security to get loans. The laws allow them to equally share family property in the event of divorce which they equally own even during marriage,” Dr. Byamukama said.
On the same occasion, the former governor of the Eastern Province, Judith Kazayire said as leaders they have done whatever it takes to liberate the Rwandan women though they have not achieved their targets yet.
“We have laws in place that protect and promote the rights and freedoms of women and we follow them strictly. But, I accept probably women’s economic empowerment is not growing at the pace we want it,”said Kazayire.
Much as we celebrate women’s achievements along the long journey of emancipation it imperative to credit Rwandan men for the change of mindset which most Rwanda women politicians say it would be far-reached and fantasy without it.
“I took part in discussion on having more women in political leadership. I said that in Rwanda, advancement of women is now part of our behavior and culture and that change of attitude by Rwandese men is a big part of it,” tweeted Louise Mushikiwabo, the Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community Minister who doubles as the government spokesperson.
Hon. Louise Mushikiwabo made the remarks while presenting during the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland.
The political will in the country to respect women’s rights and freedoms has enabled women irrespective of their political background and political affiliation shatter the glass ceiling to assume political and economic positions that were hitherto thought to be utterly men’s roles. For example, the Speaker of the Rwandan Assembly is a woman for the second time in a row. The first ever female Rwandan Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies was Hon. RoseMukantabana(2008-2013) who handed over to the current speaker Rt. Hon. DonatilleMukabalisa.
There is increasing visibility of women in both the public and private sectors who have made significant contribution to socio-economic transformation of the new Rwanda. MsClare Akamanzi as CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has presided over many investment reforms that have led Rwanda to enjoy global limelight.
Rwanda is the second easiest place to do business according to Global Technology report 2015 and second most competitive in Africa revealed the World Bank report 2017.