RWANDA, EDUCATION, and GENDER PARITY
By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140916
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) include a commitment to universal primary education and gender parity (Levine 2006). Improving the education of girls enhances individual capability, health, wealth, opportunities for future generations, and national economic outcomes (Levine 2006). Some of the hindrances to the attainment of primary education for girls include a lack of sanitation and privacy for those experiencing menstruation (Levine 2006). Others are hindered from a lack of security because of vulnerability to rape or the religious condemnation of educating girls in places like Afghanistan where schools are shut down and teachers are beheaded (Levine 2006). According to Levine, “As primary schooling expands, girls tend to be the main beneficiaries because of their historically disadvantaged position” (2006, 128).
In the online magazine Think Africa Press, Berra Kabarungi (Country Director for the international charity Women For Women) revealed how societal norms in the pre-genocidal Rwanda consisted of women not speaking in public, not owning property, not understanding their rights, and little to no protection against domestic violence (Bikorimana 2012). Further, regarding ethnicity, religion, and gender, Usta Kaitesi (teacher of gender and law and vice-dean of post-graduate research in Rwanda University’s Faculty of Law) claimed, “Generally, there was an environment of tolerating discrimination” (Bikorimana 2012).
Evidently, the societal views toward women changed after the genocide as demonstrated by the commitment to inclusive policies that recognized the role gender analysis played in determining societal outcomes (NISR 2011). According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, after the emergency period following the genocide, Rwanda’s new Constitution (2003) aimed at promoting women empowerment (2011). The Constitution, “stipulated that women should constitute 30% in all leadership positions in the country” (NISR 2011). Next, was the establishment of the National Women Council (CNF), the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), Gender Monitoring Office (GMO), and several policies and laws that reinforced a multi-sectorial commitment to Gender Equality (NISR 2011).
That is not to say, that some traditionally occupied roles such as District Mayors and Vice Mayors of Economic Affairs and head positions of learning institutions, hospitals, and police forces are not still dominated by males (NISR 2011). They are, and this speaks to patriarchy. Patriarchal systems take time to break down like all traditions do, but the fact the age statistics indicate “women aged 20 to 44 years are catching up with men aged 20 to 44” is very promising (NISR 2011). Further, that women are involved in high-decision making organs such as Ministry Permanent Secretaries (above 40%) and Supreme Court Judges (above 30%), offers hope that other sectors will be influenced in a compounded fashion over time.
Bikorimana, Didier. Rwanda: The Land of Gender Equality? May 15, 2012. http://thinkafricapress.com/rwanda/women-gender-equality (accessed September 16, 2014).
Levine, Ruth. “Educating Girls, Unlocking Development .” Current History, 2006: 127-131. (accessed September 16, 2014).
National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda. Gender Statistics. 2011. http://statistics.gov.rw/system/files/user_uploads/files/books/Gender_Report_Rwanda_Public_Sector.pdf (accessed September 16, 2014).