By Donah Mbabazi
Gender equality has proved to be a sound factor in hastening development in society today. Rwanda and many countries across the globe have put women empowerment at the forefront and this has led to tremendous transformation. Donah Mbabazi had a chat with some women about what they think should be the area of focus going forward with the fight for women empowerment.
Jackline Mbabazi, Junior Legal Consultant at Women's Link Worldwide
Honestly, there are many areas that still need to be improved. We have many pregnant teens, many girls who drop out of school because of limited means, sexual and reproductive health issues; there are still many gender stereotypes and limitations.
This is why I think this year's focus should be to get more women to speak up about women's issues. The best way to do that is to stop stigmatising the ones that speak out. Sometimes there are policies or even laws that are unfair to women or put them at a disadvantage but they fear to raise their issues because they fear to be labelled and judged by society.
Berna Namata, Ag. Branch Manager, Nation Holdings Rwanda
Rwanda has made tremendous progress in advancing the rights of women over the years. The results are visible as more women are shattering glass ceilings. However, more needs to be done to support vulnerable illiterate women in rural areas who continue to struggle to have their voices heard.
We need more social protection programs targeting vulnerable women as they have unique needs, mainly because they engage in unpaid work.
I am really worried about the rising cases of teenage pregnancies; we need tougher measures for perpetrators as well as increase investment in reproductive health and education. As a society, we need to do more to protect young girls from unplanned pregnancies which limit their opportunities in life and undermine their potential.
Monica Kayesu, Project Assistant
Knowing a woman, her strength and challenges is what we should focus on. Society should provide a platform for women to show their capabilities, and on the other hand, women also should understand their worth and shouldn't leave it all to society to be the judge of their lives, because very few people understand what being a woman is or rather what they go through.
Involving women in decision making platforms should also be at the forefront this year. Emphasis should also be put on the relevance of women and their families, for instance, working mothers should access packages that give them a gap to cater for their families, we need this as a society.
Yeetah Kamikazi, In-charge of Digital Exports and Partnership in ICT Chamber
We need to focus on skills development or capacity development in order for women to be suitable or even competitive on both the local and global market. We still lack skilled women who can boldly represent and this is seen in both the private and public sectors. We still lack skills competence for women to shine and change the world.
Delfine Umuhoza, TV Presenter
Men's silence and indifferences in regards to gender equality practices should be the focus this year. There is a way some men keep a distance from the fight for gender equality pretending not to mind women empowerment, yet their actions turn out to be against the promotion of gender equality. This should change; all men need to speak up because it is from here that we will point out the way forward by identifying what is still keeping us behind.
Also, women's fear to speak out on patriarchal violence and oppression experienced at family and professional levels needs to be addressed as well because we need to address these issues where couples live in endless domestic conflicts. Sexual manipulation of women and girls as sexual objects in schools and work places also needs to be addressed.
Phrister Nakato, Comedian
We should focus on caring and counseling young girls on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies if they can't abstain from sex. Seeing a pregnant 17-year-old girl breaks my heart, yet the number is highly increasing, which is a very big problem not only to their families but the country in general. We should also focus on young mothers by taking them back to school and helping them in any way we can because they are the future.
Brenda Mbabazi, Student
I think in Rwanda, women empowerment has reached a very high level but the problem is we have women who are still in their comfort zones. This is because we still have issues of self-esteem, women still harbor an inferiority complex yet the Government has provided a platform for us but women do not have the courage to exploit and use it which I believe is a big problem.
The author is a journalist
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