‘Women Spaces’ Empowered to Curb GBV Under Covid-19

Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) with support from WomenStrong International have distributed provisions that will help communities to provide women with essential services aimed at preventing gender based violence under the cover of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The organisations, on Monday handed over the Covid-19 relief to 40 Women Space Facilitators (WSFs) and Girl Champions (GCs) in Bugesera district to enable continuation of their activities under a safe and secure environment.

The support included: food items (rice, maize flour, and cooking oil, among other items) and sanitary wares including soap, sanitary napkins, and face masks.

The Women Space in Bugesera District is one of the 22 safe spaces in the country, used to provide girls and women with a safe place to meet, interact, share, and learn by building their capacities in addressing issues affecting their community. 

At these spaces, women address issues concerning Gender Based Violence (GBV), power, and gender inequalities.

Across the world, GBV issues are reported to be increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This is also an issue that Rwanda is facing, as GBV is described as a “shadow issue” brought about by the stringent directives to curb COVID-19 which include lockdown, limited movement, and the closing of “non-essential” services. 

It has been widely reported that couples that are under lockdown together, are experiencing violence at the hands of their partners.  

Women spaces are therefore an essential asset in fighting GBV, especially during COVID-19. 

They provide space for women in these communities, who not only have their cases heard but dealt with, as the WSFs provide counseling and referrals to Government agencies that deal with GBV.

RWN has recently had to adapt the services provided through the women spaces, so that more women can be helped in alternative ways. 

Women Space Facilitators (WSFs) use mobile phones to communicate and reach out to those unable to come to the women space. 

The mobile phones also allow for the WSFs to keep in touch with RWN, ensuring that they can receive support and update the organization on their work.

Face masks were also distributed to the WSFs who will begin running the space on a daily basis, following the relaxed mandates concerning the reopening of public spaces across the country. 

The women space is also equipped with a tap and wash basin, to provide women coming to the space with adequate sanitation before entering the premises.  

“The help you have given us by bringing food is immense. Coronavirus has really affected us, and we have been struggling to find food for our children, but this support is helpful to us. We have received rice, maize flour, and even soap. This will help us tremendously during this time,” said Chantal Uwanyirigira, a WSF for the past two years, and a mother of nine children.

Manarifasha Sylvia, has been a Girl Champion at the women’s space in Nyamata for the past two years, she expressed that life during lockdown has been tough, but she is grateful for the provisions. 

“We were not doing well before your support arrived. But now that it is here, we feel that things will be fine,” she said.

For the 40 women and girls, the provisions will benefit their families for up to two weeks.

“We are very happy that you have given us this support, and provided this food. Thank you so much for thinking of us, during this time,” said Berancille Mukawera, the head of the Nyamata sector Women and a WSF said.

With the new relaxed lockdown directives RWN plans on opening the remaining women spaces across the country, so that services may resume once again. 

Each space shall be equipped with tap and wash basins, and reusable face masks to ensure that directives from the Government are adequately observed. 

Rwanda Women’s Network (RWN) is a national humanitarian non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to promotion and improvement of the socio-economic welfare of women in Rwanda since coming to being in 1997.

To date, RWN works with various local and international partners, and plays a capacity building and facilitating role to a network of over 52 grassroots associations across the country.

WomenStrong International is a global community of organizations working with women and girls to end extreme urban poverty by finding, funding, nurturing, and sharing women-driven solutions that can transform lives.




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