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Let's celebrate women
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The Herald (Harare)
Zimbabwe today joins the globe to commemorate International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is a day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
It also marks a call to action to accelerate gender parity. This year’s theme, “Balance for Better”, resonates well with the Second Republic’s vision to promote gender equality.
The vision has not been mere rhetoric, but is being matched by various efforts and initiatives being implemented to affect the required balance across the social, political and economic strata.
Last year, Zimbabwe witnessed a first, when President Mnangagwa appointed Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri to the all-powerful Defence and War Veterans portfolio.
She made history by becoming one of the only two women to hold the Defence portfolio in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region. Even the appointment of more women in Cabinet last year, increased their representation, as the Government moves to create the necessary environment for female ascendancy.
The Government has followed these elevations with economic empowerment programmes to address historical imbalances, where women have been struggling to stand on an equal economic pedestal with men.
The recent launch of the Women’s Desk in the tourism ministry and the launch of the Zimbabwe’s Women Microfinance Bank last year, consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, are some of the overtures that speaks to Government efforts in levelling the economic playing field.
Over the years, the significant hindrance to women’s potential to achieve their greatness had been financial exclusion, which the new dispensation is now prioritising to redress through the establishment of the bank.
Even President Mnangagwa has on several platforms declared his commitment to support women in their trajectory to strengthen their involvement and participation in national development.
Tweeting on Wednesday, President Mnangagwa said: “On International Women’s Day we celebrate the strong, empowered Zimbabwean women who contribute so much to our nation. We will continue to work towards full equality and further empowerment for girls and women in the new Zimbabwe.”
Suffice to say, all these positive achievements have not gone down well with some people, averse to gender equality and intend to spoil the party. The recent unfortunate comments from MDC-Alliance Member of Parliament from Zengeza West Job Sikhala, who chose to denigrate the woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted by MDC-Alliance president Nelson Chamisa, in an abusive tweet, are quite retrogressive and dampen efforts towards gender equality.
The woman later withdrew the charges.
The nation should outrightly reject such high levels of intolerance and misogyny, more so for elected legislators and other public office holders. Such sexist attitude impedes women empowerment and stand in the way of gender equality and equity.
Society should stand up against individuals that insult, threaten and promote sexualisation of women merely because they hold a different view. We are in the 21st century, where the globe is agitating towards gendered spaces and, as a nation, we should be in sync with global trends.
We need to call out such insensitivity and objectification of women for political expediency. As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, it is critical to note that gender equality does not need many conferences, huge crowds and nicely crafted presentations from world renowned orators to promote gender equality among our people.
It takes political will, individual reflections and sound decisions on how they would want their women to be treated.
The New Times (Kigali)
By: Pierre-Damien Habumuremyi & Patrice Habinshuti
Rwanda is now known as a nation of prosperity, from being a nation totally destroyed by the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
In just 25 years, it has turned out to be a resilient and fast-growing economy. The country has put its people and their wellbeing at the forefront of is development, restoring hope to a society that had given up on life.
Thanks to the leadership in place, the future even looks much brighter. As a country with 52 per cent of its 12 million population being women, it is no doubt that the secret of all these achievements is primarily linked with its unique choice –to empower women.
On March 8, each year, the world marks the International Women’s Day. It is an opportunity to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also emphasises a call to action to accelerate gender parity.
As we celebrate Rwanda’s journey, it is worth looking at the following tangible facts on Rwanda’s women empowerment undertakings and how they contributed to the country’s remarkable transformation.
- Political participation and decision-making: Rwanda’s constitution provides for gender-inclusion. It stipulates a minimum of 30 per cent quota for women in all decision-making positions. Currently, women make 61per cent of Rwanda’s parliament - the world’s highest. The country also has 50 per cent of women in the cabinet; and an average of 40 per cent in local administration councils. This has placed them at the forefront of the overall national leadership and decision-making echelons.
- Education: Before 1994, girls’ societal role was limited to child-bearing household chores. The presumption was they were not fit for school. Rwanda today, not only emphasises education-for-all but also conducts continuous campaigns to ensure girls of school-going age are in class acquiring an education. As a result, school enrollment has reached 98 per cent for girls, even higher than that of their male counterparts at 97 per cent. In every primary and secondary school, a special room known as “Icyumba cy’Umukobwa” has been established and equipped with all the tools necessary to help girls stay in school. This move is a result of the absenteeism attributed to menstrual cycles. Deliberate efforts are also in place to encourage girls to take on science subjects that were earlier reserved for boys. And, with equal access to scholarships and prestigious universities, Rwanda girls, from all walks of life, are living their dream.
- Health: Rwanda has put in place tangible measures to ensure quality healthcare access to all, especially women. For example, the nation has been the first low-income country to provide free universal access for the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Additionally, the Mutual Health Insurance has greatly reduced infant and maternal mortality. In turn, women make the majority of more than 45,000 community health workers who greatly contribute to the betterment of health systems at grassroots levels.
- Legal Framework: Rwanda has made tangible advances to ensure a legal framework that is favorable for women, for their maximum protection and empowerment including equal rights to land, equal opportunities and equal pay for men and women, prohibition of any form of gender-based discrimination, and punishment of household and gender-based violence. In line with the latter, ISANGE One Stop-Centre has been introduced at each Police station, and each health center is equipped to run an ISANGE programme. This programme has proven to be an outstanding model of response to violence against women or gender-based violence (GBV), providing a holistic response to GBV under one roof, in order to minimise the risk of re-victimisation, tampering of evidence and delayed justice. All these provisions contribute to making Rwanda one of the top countries to be born a girl.
- Economic development: Rwanda currently has the world’s highest rate of female labor force participation of 86 per cent as highlighted by the World Economic Forum in 2018. Statistics also show that women contribute 30 per cent of the GDP and female entrepreneurship accounts for 42 per cent of enterprises countrywide, and 58 per cent of informal businesses according to International Finance Corporation. In addition, women are given special access to finance from both public and private financing institutions. For example, the Business Development Fund (BDF) facilitates women to access capital for their business ventures by providing a 75 per cent coverage on due collateral.
In the latest 2018’s Annual Global Gender Gap Report, Rwanda ranked the first in Africa and sixth globally in having closed its gender gap, beating many of the world’s developed nations.
Looking at Rwanda’s continued rapid socio-economic transformation, especially through the lens of the above choices, it goes without saying that women are the engine that is propelling the country’s development.
To fellow Rwandans, let’s take this opportunity to thank women for their unprecedented role in building the “Rwanda We Want”.