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IWD : Celebrating the Magic of Womanhood

Ruhango, March 8, 2019 : A sea of humanity. Dressed in festive attire. Waving posters. Shouting slogans. Singing out loud. Women, men, children, and babies. Everyone there exclaiming that Every Voice Counts. It was International women’s day and the Member of Parliament for the Southern Province, Ms. Uwumuremyi Claire was present as the Guest of honor.

CARE Rwanda’s partner PROFEMMES had excellently organised this function where thousands had gathered to hear the messages of Gender Equality, Gender Justice, and ending Gender Based Violence. All of which were portrayed in songs, dances, and skits ; all celebrating the role of women and the magic they bring to families in whatever role they play.

Innumerable colorful flyers and posters were held high, displaying messages that explained why the voices of women and girls matter in Imihigo planning and budgeting.

Speaking at the occasion was the Vice Mayor of Economic development,who explained that the theme of this year’s International day is : Together build the family with peace. In this context he appealed to the audience to abhor violence in the family, to treat each other with respect, and to work together towards eradicating malnutrition in children. Another issue addressed was that of teen pregnancies which needs to be halted at any cost. He also said that the budget for women and children’spriorities was far from sufficient and that he was appealing to the Government for increased funding.

Ms. Nshimiyimana Appolinaire, a Member of the Board of Directors of PRO-FEMMES, explainedthat PRO-FEMMES is the umbrella organization for 53 member organisations with the mission of advocacy to root out the evil of Gender Based Violence and build peaceful families. It gave her great satisfaction that the Southern Province stands first in the implementation of gender equality, as evidenced by the huge number of men who had turned out to celebrate woman’s day. “Our country has the political will to make this happen. We stand first in the world, having 61% of women in Parliament. We are grateful to the government for their laws and its application in the lives of the people.” Sheemphasized the need for the participation of women and girls in Imihigo planning and budgeting at different levels. Women and girls are usually responsible forall household chores and they are often not invited to attend Imihigo planning and budgeting meetings or other citizen gatherings.In most cases, they don’t have information regarding the time and place of these meetings. Women and girls are disproportionally affected by Gender Based Violence and social injustice, however, given the opportunity, they are the catalysts of change in their communities.“Through Every Voice Counts, PRO-FEMMES advocates for effective and greater engagement of women, girls, and the disabled in all governance processes. We should remember that every voice counts,” she concluded.

The Member of Parliament, Ms. Uwumuremyi Claire, spoke to a cheering audience and disclosed that she was excited that Parliament was invited to such an important event, but stressed that the key partners to any progress in the country are first and foremost the citizens themselves. Reiterating that the government has made great strides in gender equality, she said that the journey is long and arduous but the Government with the help of partners who work untiringly in the field, will work towards making all things possible.

“It is no small coincidence,” she said, “that a couple of weeks after International Women’s day, we commemorate the genocide that took place in our country. The outstanding role that women have played in reconstructing the country is admirable and recognized. It is time for us to work together towards permanent reconciliation. This can happen only when families begin to live together in peace.”
The Member of Parliament also stressed the need for commitment and involvement of the people to implement the Laws and Policies that have been put in place by the government. “Please make use of all the programmes that have been put in place for your benefit. Gender based violence, teen pregnancies, malnutrition, all these are issues that need your active involvement and participation at all levels, especially for women. The Early Child Development program also does not have sufficient citizen participation. I urge you all get involved with all the programs of the Government and our partners.”

The Coordinator of the National Women’s council at the Southern Provincial level, Ms. Jeanne D’Arc, said that when we ask for women’s rights it does not mean that we are negating men, but that we are involving them in the fight against gender inequality. She went on to say :“One of the evils we need to be rid of is gender based violence. When violence is involved there can never be peace in families or anywhere else. We also need to help young ones realise that teen pregnancies bring many problems, the worst being that children born of teen mothers will grow up to be unhealthy adults and a blight to the future of the nation.”

CARE Rwanda’s Governance and Gender Based Violence Manager, Kayigamba Jean Claude who describes himself as a man who fights for the rights of women, said “CARE Rwanda’s mandate is to fight poverty and social injustice especially for women and girls. CARE’s program called ‘her dignity, our pride’ is a major step in that direction. A step that will help us achieve everything that makes a woman truly dignified. Women work at home but they must also participate in decision making with planning or budgeting in public life as per the objective of‘Every Voice Counts’, the initiative funded by the Dutch Ministry. Every voice counts and women need to make sure that they too are heard.”

Mukasharangabo Aurelia, a mother twice over at the age of seventeen, boldly told her rags to riches story inspiring the other women and encouraging them to be bold and proactive in their lives. “I was homeless, living a poverty stricken life with two children to care for. Today, apart from other things, I produce two tons of rice per season. If I could overcome all odds, so can you.”

Mr. Mazimpaka Jean Claude, representing the Honorable Mr. Gasana Emmanuel, the Governor of the Southern Province, said that such a huge turnout for the occasion was an indication of good governance which upholds the place of women in society. “A good woman creates a good family and good families bring peace to the country. In addition, the Province acknowledges the commitment of the people to eradicate malnutrition in children within one month. We wish you all the best.”

Four cows,in accordance with Government’s ’One cow per family program’, were given to four needy families by the Member of Parliament. The MP also distributed copies of the Family Laws, Land Laws, and Gender Based Violence Laws which had been translated into Kinyarwanda by the Women’s Forum of Parliament.
Clothes, food and milk werealso distributed. Since this district has sworn to eradicate malnutrition in children within one month, much of the food, especially milk and eggs, were donated by the families who had attended this function.

Grassroots women give the message in relation to their participation on the occasion of the International women day.