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Rwanda’s First Lady Says Women Can Bring Change Despite Obstacles


Rwanda’s First Lady Says Women Can Bring Change Despite Obstacles

The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, has said that women and girls are capable of bring about significant change to their environment, despite obstacles that stand in the way.

She said that the impact of this change could be many times as powerful, if impediments were removed from their paths; and that consequently, they should be considered as mighty agents of change.

In her view, everybody has at least one story of one woman or a girl, who has sparked off remarkable changes around them, because they had been able to enjoy the many benefits of gender equality and social justice, beginning with equal access to knowledge, and education.

The First Lady made the remarks while speaking at the World Vision’s 14th Annual Event themed ‘Strong Women Strong World’ on Friday, November 30, in New York, USA.

Emphasizing on the “She Can”, concept, as stated by World Vision’s catch-line for the forum, Jeannette Kagame, shared with the participants the story of one Yvette Ishimwe, a Rwandan woman in her early twenties, who studied physics, chemistry and biology in high school at a time when Rwanda had began pushing for girls’ increased enrollment in the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics cohort.

“While in school, she [Yvette Ishimwe] decided to create a social enterprise called ‘Iriba Clean Water Delivery’ to extract water from natural sources such as lakes, and to treat it using a water purifier system, before supplying it to households at an affordable cost,” the First Lady said, adding that, “A simple yet innovative concept, allowing communities living in water-scarce environments, to access clean, potable water available at arm’s length.”

She said that the world needs to recognise that the role of women is changing,  which calls for an expansion of opportunities in order to keep with the evolving aspirations all members of the Rwandan society like everywhere else in the world.

In Rwanda, like everywhere else, the role of women is changing, and opportunities need to expand, in order to keep pace with the evolving aspirations of all members of our society.

“It is imperative to consider the dual role that women embrace in these modern times. Traditionally, most were expected to focus exclusively on the family sphere, and fulfill their responsibilities as wives, mothers and caregivers,” she said adding that “in today’s fast-paced world, women are seen as full participants in both the private and public arena.

Their roles have shifted from mothers and caregivers, to an increasing acceptance of their role as leaders, in their own right.”

“Both roles should be seen as complementary and foundational – for the children, the family, and ultimately for society at large.,’’ she added.

She called for increased resolve to change cultural practices that limit women to specific roles, in a thinly veiled attempt, at keeping them steps below their male counterparts.

Imbuto Foundation

The First Lady testified about her organization that she founded, that has transformed the lives of thousands of girls and women in Rwanda.

She said the organisation awards Best Performing Girls in schools and offers Scholarships to well performing students from families with financial difficulties.

The program encourages them to aspire to excellence, and open pathways for a better future.

“This kind of recognition also inspires and motivates other students to work hard, aim high and positively influence the course of not only their lives, but that of their community and country,” she said.

The World Vision’s 14th Annual Event was attended by about 250 participants, men and women who discussed ways to enable women to play an equal role in bringing out changes to alleviate poverty.

The Ambassador of Rwanda to the United Nations, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nation, Fatima Kyari Mohammed and other staff members of the World Vision among other guests attended the event.

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