Women taking lead in Rwanda
Rwanda is well known globally for its efforts to address gender imbalances at all levels of society. Despite this, women in Rwanda suffer from violence, inequalities and repression, and often lack the knowledge and confidence needed to realize their potential as leaders and public speakers.
This is of great concern to the local organization Pro-femmes Twese Hamwe. In cooperation with Norwegian People’s Aid, they are running “Women can do it”-courses with specific focus on communication and speech techniques, aiming to empower women to take the lead in public sectors and politics and strengthen women’s positions in the society.
Mrs. Mukashema Agnes and Mrs. Kampire Marcelline are two women from Nyaruguru district in the Southern province of Rwanda. They both participated in a “Women Can Do It”-course that took place in Nyaruguru in 2012.
“I was very inspired and encouraged by the training” said Mrs Agnes.
“The training equipped us with necessary skills and, more importantly, gave us confidence to run for elections to compete for positions on the District Executive Committee” she says. Together with Mrs Kampire they contested six available leadership positions within their district authority.
Training for candidatures
The first thing the two ladies did was to organize a meeting with other women participants that had trained on the “Women Can Do It”-approaches.
“Together we developed strategies to enable women contest elections with particular focus on addressing the power imbalance that men yield in this matter traditionally” Mrs. Agnes told.
The meeting proved to be a success. They agreed that ten women from the group were going to submit their applications for candidature. This was based on the willingness and availability of each individual. They arranged a mock ‘role playing’ election where they practiced public speaking and prepared their agendas. Each candidate was given 5 minutes to explain her motives and plans for the aspiring position and what they would like to offer the citizens should they be elected to office.
Based on skills acquired from the training such as communication and speech techniques, use of body language, clear and audible speaking, beforehand preparations and aide memoire papers, the ten women were able to convince each other that they had the necessary qualifications for the positions they sought.
Stereotypical attitudes overthrown
The ten brave women later appeared before the voters to deliver their manifestos.
“The manifestos were very clear and concise, actually better than majority of the men candidates and women that had not trained” Mrs Agnes tells.
Besides being supported by almost all the women, a number of men also voted in favor of these women. During the five minutes given to each candidate their presentations were exceptionally convincing and differed from the stereotypical attitude that “women are weak and cannot held positions of authority in society”.
“The women proved to their audience that they had clear objectives and plans that would contribute to the betterment of their communities” Mrs Agnes submits.
The empowerment gave results
When votes were publicly counted, people were excited that women candidates had gained more votes than their male counterparts. Indeed, out of the six contested available positions the women won four. To date they remain in these positions fulfilling their duties accordingly and acting as role models to other women
By the end of 2011, 56, 3% of all parliamentarians were women; making Rwanda the first country in the world to achieve such a high percentage of women’s representation in its legislature. The Government of Rwanda has shown commitment to challenge the historically patriarchal structures by developing and implementing gender focused policies and laws.
In an effort to remedy this, Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe is implementing the ‘Women Can Do It’ (WCDI) approach as part of the Ending Domestic Violence project. They organize trainings for young girls and women on leadership, with specific focus on communication and speech techniques. Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe has been cooperating with NPA from 2003-2004 and 2009-2016.