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When culture meets activism in search of gender equality | The New Times

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Rwanda ranks high in the world for gender equality, but despite strong political will and legislative changes, blame fingers point to culture as an obstacle to achieving that equality.

The 2022 Global Gender Gap Index, published in July this year, ranks Rwanda as Africa’s first gender-equal country and sixth in the world, with countries achieving equality at the ministerial and parliamentary levels. It shows that you did.

But, at least according to women’s rights activists, Annie, director of the Rwanda Sustainable Development Initiative (RISD), despite the commendable milestone that “Rwanda is still a very patriarchal society.” Kairaba told the New Times. ..

“Women get married too early. College girls are mostly forced by culture to get married while in school, and when they get married while in school, their educational progress and boys and their children It will affect the progress of education in the world, “said Kayiraba.

This is just one of the common cases where gender inequality dispersal seems to be normalized, but Rwandan women have endured limited rights and opportunities throughout history, says Kairaba. ..

She gave an example of the saying, “There is a woman behind every successful man.” In the context of Rwanda, it seems that “there is a man behind every successful woman.”

“Women are described from the perspective of the men they” belong to. ” “Who’s daughter” means father, not mother. Allow it to be placed somewhere depending on “who’s wife”, “who’s sister”, and the man behind. Instead of asking, “What did she study?”, “Where does she work?” “What kind of work does she do …” said Kairaba.

She further explained that although Rwanda says “the center of the house is a woman,” in terms of ownership, it is believed that the man is still the owner of the house, not his wife.

“Even if a woman contributes more to the existence of this house, even if it is a loan provided by a woman, the house belongs to a man,” Kairaba said.

She added that family conflicts are increasing with the recent increase in women’s empowerment. Some men forbid managing the resources that women produce. It is considered a power race. Among siblings, boys who make little or no contribution to household chores want to make decisions about family property and development, and even if girls make the most financial contribution, parents are still in the family. We prioritize boys over girls in terms of decision making. General practice.

In a Twitter space hosted by the Rwanda Women’s Network on the theme of “gender stereotypes that stimulate GBV and hinder gender equality,” culture and religion were said to be an excuse to frustrate the quest for gender equality.

Dowry, for example, is one of the cultural practices that has not been agreed even by gender equality activists themselves. Some say it’s okay, while others say it’s a problem because it’s often taken as a price to the bride.

Well-known social media user Eric Shaba said dowry matters when using and manipulating dowry for women, or depending on the level of education and other expected abilities of women. He said it was only for negotiations.

“Dowry is okay. Even if you say that dowry should be paid to men, it doesn’t require government intervention. The only problem with that is when it’s received in return for buying a woman.” Said Shaba.

However, feminist and human rights activist Marie Immacule Ingabile said the whole thing, because firstly the dowry has to be paid by men and secondly it is used to do what women don’t want and abuse. I disagree with the concept. ..

She talked about a recent incident in the Gikambi district. The woman is reportedly asking her husband to “look back and give what she paid for” (meaning sex).

“When a child is crying, a woman is tired, or hungry and thirsty, the man says he paid the dowry, so the woman is expected to give in. This is sex-based. It’s slavery, “said Ingabile.

Nonetheless, people who fight gender equality with cultural excuses are lying because culture is dynamic and cannot be easily measured from history, Robert Masozella, director of cultural heritage in Rwanda, told the New Times. Gender is better than others who say that culture doesn’t say anything. “In our case, it can even protect women from harm. It is wrong to measure culture and other practices from the time women were not allowed to own land.

“Culture is dynamic. That is, we learn from new concepts from other cultures and incorporate some good practices. In our culture, men and women complement each other in many ways. But that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other, “Masozera said.

He also said that men did the unpaid care work that culture imposes on women, such as cooking and cleaning homes, and that the situation has changed and is not against culture.

Masozera, however, said that some gender roles should still be emphasized. He said taiko should not be played by women.

“We still discourage women from beating drums because culture forbids it. Historically, this practice requires a lot of energy and is reserved for men because it jumps. This may be unhealthy given the nature of a woman’s body, “says Masozera.

Mary Barikungeri, Managing Director of the Rwanda Women’s Network, said in a Twitter space that the laws, culture and human rights of those who live the way they want need to be harmonized.

“We continue to hear that culture is not static. If you agree that culture is dynamic, what are the obstacles to keeping it up to date? And culture is a way of life. We also understand that, given the law and the right to live the way we want, connecting these concepts is a big challenge, “says Barikungeri.

Last week, a video of journalist Scovia Umutesi, who hosts a traditional wedding, was released on various social media. She may be the first woman to do it. Some welcomed it, while others frowned at saying that women shouldn’t do it.

There is no doubt that the Rwandans are breaking gender norms, but there was no time when they didn’t. However, we need to do more.

“Given the high level of political commitment, positive steps have been taken to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, but challenges remain to achieve this.

“The focus should be on equal opportunity for both women and women’s attitudes towards economic empowerment and social change,” said Kairaba.

giribagiza@newtimesrwanda.com

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