Rwanda Blog 5: Kescha Mason, MCL Student

August 15, 2017 ~ LeAnn Snow Flesher

A Journey toward Equality. . .a Continual Work in Progress

It’s difficult to write about one experience that stood out most while in Rwanda, because every moment of the entire trip was a memorable experience. There were so many memorable moments and experiences that were impactful; from having the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, to meeting the Governor of the Eastern Provence. From attending an inter-faith peace celebration commemorating Rwanda’s twenty-three years of peace, solidarity and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, to facilitating discussions with community faith leaders using the book of Jeremiah, to being Disciples–going out solo to preach in the villages in the Eastern Province, to contributing as a group to the giving of peace cows for community village members in need. Visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial allowed us to put into a visual context what we had read in course readings about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and understand why such a tragic event in Rwandan history is so important to be remembered.  We then ended our visit by going on a real life African preserve safari.

Rwanda Blog 5-1
Hippos sunning in the Rwanda National Reserve

Every moment of every day was filled with once in a life time experiences and opportunities to learn and encounter the unknown and take part in experiences that would surely take us all out of our realms of comfort and require us to lean on faith.

But for the sake of time and space, because I could go on forever, the one experience that stands out most for me in reflecting on our trip to Rwanda is our meeting with the Ministry and staff of Gender and Family Promotion.

The Honorable Nyirasafari Espérance serves at the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, she and her staff were very gracious and welcoming; given our sit down meeting was somewhat impromptu. Yet and still even on short notice Hon. Nyirasafari was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to talk with our group about her country’s great efforts and progress toward rebuilding a society based on gender equality.

ABSW Team with Min of Gender and Family and Bishop Alex from the Eastern Province
ABSW Team with Min of Gender and Family and Bishop Alex from the Eastern Province

In our short conversation, Hon. Nyirasafari provided lots of insightful information on Rwanda’s progress toward gender equality with their President, Paul Kagame at the helm of the effort.

According to Hon. Nyirasafari, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion is charged by the Rwandan government to ensure collaboration, coordination and implementation of appropriate policies on gender equality, women empowerment and family promotion are a success.

The Rwandan Constitution mandates that women must occupy 30% of positions in policy/decision making processes. To insure policies are kept, goals are achieved and exceeded, as a means of accountability these policies are monitored and overseen by the Republic of Rwanda’s Gender Monitoring Office, which has key responsibilities in advocating for gender equality, being a point of contact/reference for information and documentation on gender equality and monitoring to insure the ratified International Gender Commitments are kept.

Rwanda’s achievements in the areas of unity, reconciliation, peace, security and prosperity have given way to all citizens equally participating in the development processes. Girls and women acknowledge and cherish the value and empowerment President Paul Kagame and his leadership have given women and girls to fully live up to their potential and contribute to the nation’s development process.  The President’s initiatives to remove all legal and social barriers that keep classism in place and many citizens from fully participating in public life have encouraged women in Rwanda to emerge successfully in the economic and social transformation of the country.

Due to his commitment to ensure gender equality and justice, President Paul Kagame has been recognized among the Global Champions for Gender Equality and Women Empowerment through his “He for She” campaign.  This initiative aims at encouraging men and boys to support gender equality and women empowerment, President Kagame is committed to bridging the gender divide to attain full equality by the year 2020.

Paul Kagame President of Rwanda
Paul Kagame
President of Rwanda

Already, efforts by the Head of State have made Rwanda a global leader in political, empowerment of women where 64% of women hold a public office and are in Parliament.  This gives the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion a great opportunity to strengthen policies that promote gender equality, the protection of families and children and gives space for women to be equal in the development processes of the country; as Hon. Nyirasafari stated,  “In Rwanda, the journey toward equality isn’t a new one, rather it is a continuous work in progress”.

Since our time was short the many more probing questions we had for the Minister couldn’t be asked or answered, however we committed to stay in contact to follow their progress toward gender equality, so that we might be able to learn by their example how we might as a nation implement and to progress toward the same standards of equality among genders here the U.S.

Kescha Mason
ABSW Student
Master’s in Community Leadership