Several Rwandan men are increasingly speaking out against the violence and discrimination faced by women and accept gender equality as an important factor in the country’s development.
Through the “HeforShe” campaign started by UN Women, Rwanda has been sensitising men to deeply get involved in discussing about gender violence prevention.
The campaign goal is to engage men and boys as agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s right, by encouraging them to take action against inequalities faced by women and girls.
Men that subscribe to this campaign are referred to as HeforShe champions, last year alone, the number of people committed to push for gender equality have doubled to over 150, 000 from 72, 000 champions.
“The target is not just going for numbers; it is rather to ensure that gender equality becomes a culture.” Said Pamela Mudakikwa, MIGEPROF Communications Officer. According to MIGEPROF high subscription is attributed to association of forces from different commitments that help people understand what gender is about.
To become a HeforShe champion one has to log on to www.heforshe.org and sign up using their identifiable name and email.
The target was to reach 100 000 subscribers in an undefined period however, President Kagame in April last year while touring Eastern province raised the commitment to 500 000 champions. “I was among the first men to sign up for the campaign. I encourage all men, starting from today, to sign and support women empowerment. We should have at least 500 000 champions” He said.
Three commitments are likely to be of assistance for the HeforShe initiative to move on. These include Girls in ICT- an opportunity for girls and women to get an insight into ICT sector and getting hands-on experience in technology; then Girls in Technical Vocations and the Gender based violence initiative.
Mudakikwa however, told KT Press, internet connectivity is still a challenge that hinders implementation of the initiative.
“We are working with the Ministry of Youth and ICT through their ICT Awareness Campaign mobilising Rwandans to embrace ICT. Local Government Ministry has also introduced HeforShe among performance targets (Imihigo) to be achieved by local leaders. So we are looking for a way forward” said Mudakikwa.
Cultural stigma and laxity to acknowledge gender mainstreaming efforts that were underlined last year as the most challenges are not a hindrance anymore.