The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) with support from the Netherlands Embassy organized and facilitated a study visit on gender equality to Rwanda which was attended by an eight-member delegation consisting of representatives from the two organizations, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission- chairperson and chief executive officer, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development- director, legal services department, the Parliament of Zimbabwe- portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs- chairperson and principal clerk from 03- 08 May 2021. The visit helped the delegates to draw lessons on gender equality and the empowerment of women in Zimbabwe. Rwanda is ranked the 7th in the world and 1st in Africa in terms of promoting gender equality through its progressive gender equality laws, policy frameworks and programmes.
The delegation with the assistance of Rwanda Cooperation Initiative (RCI) which falls under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation managed to meet the following: Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, Gender Monitoring Office, National Women’s council, Rwanda Women’s Parliamentarian Forum, Profemmes Twese Hamwe- women’s rights organisation and Mayor for Muhanga district to learn the laws, policies and practices Rwanda has put in place in order to promote equality in all leadership and decision making positions from the community to the national level:
i)The Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion– the ministry started by giving an overview of gender equality and women empowerment processes in the country. In Rwanda, 51.5% of ministers are women, 61.3% of the Parliament’s lower chambers are women, 43.7% women make up the Judiciary, 36% women are in the Senate, 34.4% are Director Generals and 46.5% women are in the National Public Prosecution.
The ministry shared how the Rwandan government has put in place policies and laws that have facilitated for the full participation of women in leadership and decision making processes from the national to the grassroots level. Their constitution provides for a 30% quota for women in all leadership and decision making processes. To note is that the quota has been implemented from the cabinet to community level leadership positions such as village and ward development committees and in most cases it has been surpassed with women now occupying more than 50% of most leadership positions across all levels. The ministry has gone further to provide incentives for integration of gender in the private sector using SEAL awards. They have also ensured that gender focal persons are senior Government staff members and are involved in key decision making processes.
ii)The Rwanda Gender Monitoring Office (GMO)- this is equivalent to the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and is responsible for monitoring the mainstreaming of gender, gender based violence (GBV) services delivery, international gender commitments in public, private, civil society and religious institutions in a niche to achieve gender equality in Rwanda. The GMO established a monitoring and evaluation system that monitors all institutions private and public to ensure at least 30% of women occupy key leadership and decision making positions. The office has also provided oversight to the full implementation of gender equality laws and policies making it possible for the country to promote gender balance. Interesting to note that the GMO has monitoring mechanisms for all public elected and appointed positions from the presidium to the lowest leadership position in communities and produces annual reports on the state of gender parity in the country.
iii)The National Women’s Council (NWC) of Rwanda– is an independent organ whose main responsibilities is to gather and analyse women’s ideas, build the capacity of women to effective participate in leadership and decision making processes, mobilise women to participate in the country’s development programmes and advocate for equality. The NWC also shared with the delegation how it works in collaboration with the National Electoral Commission to make sure political parties include women in their political party lists and that female independent candidates also get an equal opportunity to contest.
iv)The Rwanda Women Parliamentarian Forum (FFRP)- the forum plays an influential role in the development of a conducive environment for Rwandan women and men to equally and equitably enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential. FFRP also provides oversight on gender action plans and makes sure equality laws and policies are implemented in letter and spirit to guarantee women’s free, active and full participation in electoral processes.
- v) The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning-the delegation had an opportunity to learn about Rwandan model of Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) which ensures equitable distribution of resources to men and women as a way of addressing the needs of different groups. The GRB ensures that government expenditure addresses the needs of women, men, boys and girls equitably and that the gender perspective is mainstreamed into national, local planning and budgeting processes. This guarantees that everyone’s needs are captured in the national budget and funds are used for their intended purposes including empowering women and girls. The ministry requests annual budgets from line ministries with clear gender budget statements. If a ministry does not submit a gender budget statement their budget is not approved as stipulated in the “Organic Budget Law”. To note is that the ministries are not allocated additional funds for gender responsive budgeting but are expected to make the available budgets gender responsive.
- vi) Profemmes Twese Hamwe (civil society organisation)- the women’s rights organization is an umbrella body comprising of 53 organizations that contributes to the improvement of the political, socio-economic status of women at different levels in the country. The organisation monitors the work of government on promoting gender equality and also provides capacity building to its members on women empowerment and parity processes.
vii)The Mayor of Muhanga District- the delegation also travelled to Muhanga district to meet a female Mayor who is doing amazing work in linking the national gender agenda with local level women empowerment processes. The Mayor is proactive in ensuring the local budget is gender sensitive and actively involves women community leaders in the planning, implementation and monitoring process.
Laws, policies and programmes that have promoted gender equality in Rwanda:
- The Rwanda Constitution of June 2003 as revised in 2015.
- The Law Governing Political Parties.
- Organic Law Governing Elections (2018).
- Organic Law on State Finance and Property (2013) (it mandates line Ministries to adhere to Gender Responsive Budgeting)
- Revised Law determining offences and Penalties (Penal Code) (2018)
b)Policies and strategies:
- Vision 2020.
- National Gender policy.
- Gender Based Violence policy.
- Gender Sector mainstreaming strategies.
- Women and youth access to finance strategy .
- Gender Responsive Budgeting.
- Women Economic Planning.
- Gender Mainstreaming.
- Gender Economic Policy Management.
- Isange One Stop Centres for survivors of gender based violence (GBV).
Recommendations for Zimbabwe from WALPE and WLSA:
Ø There is need for political will from the highest office to the lowest in order to fully promote gender equality.
Ø There is urgent need to align all the gender equality provisions in the constitution (section 17, 56 and 80) with the electoral act in order to empower ZEC to reject political party lists that do not reflect gender balance during elections.
Ø The Government must avoid piecemeal legislation to gender equality but must be sincere in the quest to promote parity in all leadership and decision making positions.
Ø There is serious need to consider changing the electoral system from first past the post to proportional representation as the latter guarantees gender balance.
Ø The Government must put in place a stand-alone sexual harassment Act that also incorporates violence against women in politics in order to deal with the scourge of violence against women political activists.
Ø To put in place monitoring and evaluation measures to monitor all institutions to adhere to the constitution of Zimbabwe.
Ø The ministry of finance must guarantee gender responsive budgeting and put in place all necessary monitoring and compliance mechanisms.