First Lady Jeannette Kagame has issued a rallying call to women and girls to embrace a new role as frontline defenders of lasting peace, instead of victims of violence.
She was on Monday addressing the 12th Commonwealth Women’s Forum in Kigali, one of the several events that marked the start of the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
More than 500 delegates are attending the forum, which is exploring ways to meet the challenges affecting women and girls across the Commonwealth and to ensure member countries have robust policies and programmes to meet gender equality targets by 2030.
Mrs Kagame took the audience down memory lane on how Rwanda’s path in reconstruction, after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, was littered with the pain of fragmented families, of wounded and traumatised women, yet the nation now leads as a champion of women empowerment.
“The 2022 Kigali CHOGM Women’s Forum does not just occur in a country that consistently pushes for the emergence and recognition of women in leadership,” she said.
She added: “It occurs in a country where rape was used barely three decades ago as a weapon of war. Today, Rwanda is ranked by the World Economic Forum as the seventh country in the world for closing the gender gap.”
She said Rwanda considers peace and security a condition for the attainment of sustainable development and that the lessons learned can combat existing challenges affecting women and girls.
“The role played by women in peace building has been the cornerstone of Rwanda’s development. We too, can adopt our strategies for accelerated progress, our service provision, our collaboration frameworks, our militancy and advocacy, our education and research, and every tool in the arsenary which will combat gender inequality in order to transform for better the landscape in which we exist,” she said.
Patricia Scotland QC, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, said the “Commonwealth advantage” is enough to achieve set goals in gender equality and women empowerment.
“This Women’s Forum and this CHOGM is our opportunity to build on our Commonwealth advantage. Our similar systems of democratic governance, of common law, of common language, of compatible institutions drive progress for which we all hunger and thirst,” Scotland said.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, she added, that Rwanda is hosting the Women’s Forum, “because it is a champion for gender equality”.
The Forum, which is taking place in Africa for the first time, is running under the theme, ‘Delivering a Common Future: Transforming Gender Equality.