ANALYSIS: VINCENT SENGIYUMVA
YESTERDAY (Monday, March 8, 2021), Rwanda joined the rest of the world in celebrating International Women’s Day.
This year’s global theme was: ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’.
Rwanda chose to celebrate International Women’s Day under the theme: ‘Munyarwandakazi, ba ku ruhembe mu isi yugarijwe na COVID-19’ (Women, be at the forefront in COVID-19 world).
The aim of this year’s theme is to recognise the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The overall objective of the celebration and observation of the International Women’s Day in Rwanda was to reflect on the registered achievements in empowering women and giving them space in a post COVID-19 pandemic world to actively participate in national development and recognise the importance of their role in resolving issues still faced by the Rwandan families hit hard by the pandemic.
It will also be an opportunity to examine the existing challenges that women are still facing and make new commitment to work together as men and women towards building a secured and prosperous Rwanda geared at attaining sustainable development.
Celebrating International Women’s Day in Rwanda is meaningful considering tremendous achievements made by the country in terms of women empowerment and gender equality.
Under the able leadership of President Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, Rwanda has created an enabling environment for women to fully participate in national development.
Laws, policies, strategies and programmes aiming at improving the standards of living of Rwandan people in general and women in particular have been put in place to improve gender parity. Different institutions namely the Ministry of Gender and Family promotion, the National Women’s Council, the Gender monitoring Office, the Furum des Femmes Rwandaise Parlementaires (FFRP), the National Gender and Family Cluster have been put in place to accelerate the implementation of these policies and the promotion of gender equality among men and women in both the economic and social development of Rwanda.
The National Gender Policy, which was first adopted in 2004 and revised in 2010, has the key mission of contributing to the elimination of gender inequalities in all sectors of national life in order to achieve sustainable development in Rwanda.
The fundamental objective of the gender policy is thus to promote gender equality and equity in the country through a clearly defined process for mainstreaming gender needs and concerns across all sectors of development.
The policy recognises that gender is a cross-cutting issue that must be addressed in all sectors of development in Rwanda. It affirms that women and men are equal citizens who must fully contribute to the development process and to equally benefit from it. Therefore, the policy calls for recognition of existing differences existing between men and women, girls and boys which must be effectively addressed in all development processes to make the national development interventions effective and efficient.
The Rwandan government recognises that women are key contributors in the society. Having their voices added to political and economic matters, it is important to empowering them to make even greater contributions to the national developmental agenda. Hence the country’s leadership is cognisant to the notion that it is important to empower women financially to enable them to meaningfully contribute to the economic growth of Rwanda. The financial inclusion of women is important for them to contribute to economic growth. This means empowering women at the grassroots, women in the rural areas, linking them with markets, increasing their skills in financial literacy and management.
As countries on the African continent intensify efforts to control the pandemic, health systems are being challenged across the continent including Rwanda’s. The consequential disruption of services on the already overstretched health systems, and the deviation of resources from essential sexual and reproductive health services (SRH) have increased the vulnerability of African women notably women in remote and rural areas.
According to the World Health Organisation (2021) an impressive number of women is at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19. The African Region counts more than 770,000 qualified women working in the health sector (doctors, nurses and midwives). They represent about 57 percent of the health workforce. However, only 28 percent of them are female doctors. This average is lower than the global average of 4 percent of female physicians. Hence, the sex distribution of health workers in the African region shows that, although women represent majority of the health workforce, they are often under-represented at senior medical levels. However, some countries manage to maintain the 50/50 ratio or are getting closer to it. This is the case, for instance, in Benin, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal and South Africa. Others have even managed to reverse the trend with a higher number of female doctors for example, in Zambia, where 18.45 percent of the doctors are men compared to 81.55 percent women which is a commendable development.
It is encouraging to note that during the 7th Session of the Zambia-Rwanda Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) of Cooperation, which was hosted by Zambia from December 1 to 3, 2020, via video conference, gender was earmarked as one of the areas of cooperation between the two countries. Other areas included foreign affairs, trade and industry, tourism, air transport, mining, agriculture, sport, science and technology, information and communication technology, research and development and local government. The aforesaid session of the JPC was co-chaired by Zambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joseph Malanji (M.P.) and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta.
The author is First Secretary at the Rwanda High Commission in Zambia.