The First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame says the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it unprecedented challenges nations and communities but but women and girls were by the most affected.
The First Lady made the remarks on Monday while addressing the Motsepe Foundation 5th annual Gender Equality, Wellness and Leadership (GEWAL) virtual Summit, which coincided with the International Women’s Day.
Mrs. Kagame and the Motsepe Foundation called for more action in gender-action and equality in the post COVID-19 recovery based on lessons picked from how women continued to be central figures in mitigating the pandemic.
The foundation which organizes the summmit said that women’s role in battling the pandemic should be a lesson that will inform the next steps in building better systems to address pending concerns of gender inequality in the economy, health, education and leadership among others.
For example despite existing measures to improve women welfare, many women during the Covid-19 pandemic had to stay at home to take care of their children, do unpaid labor, leaving work, dropping from school which heavily affected the existing gender equality progress making them even more vulnerable to gender based violence and abuse.
The foundations also showed that many women have had a double task of battling the pandemic alongside gender inequality issue which has not only been put at risk of losing their lives, but also been a major setback in the previous gender equality achievements especially wellbeing and financial equity.
The First Lady of Rwanda, Mrs Jeannette Kagame told the summit that COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it unprecedented challenges and its initial consequences have had a ripple effect on all socio-economic sectors, and has threatened to bring nations and communities at a standstill.
However, Mrs Kagame said that one year into the COVID-19 crisis, there is a need to take a moment to look at the importance of women especially their resilience in crisis and pandemic times, so as to carry new lessons for future action.
“Together, let us not lose the lessons of the pandemic, but rather, ensure that women and girls harness their true powers in their homes, their countries, and the world at large,” Mrs Kagame said at the 5th GEWAL Summit, themed ‘Harnessing the role of Women in the Pandemic Recovery’, virtually held this March 8, 2021.
Using a quote from the late President Nelson Mandela who once said, “It is a unique woman who can turn the whole world around, and make it the best living place to experience”, Mrs Kagame said the next post Covid10 steps should include embracing the spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ (humunity) with a renewed commitment, ideas and deeper connections geared towards protecting the most vulnerable among us.
To show that it is possible, Mrs Kagame said that Rwanda has also learned lessons out of tragedy and necessity, of which Rwandan women demonstrated unimaginable resilience in post-genocide stepping in to fill the leadership void which has seen the country introduce women friendly policies in the world.
This has since 2003, seen Rwanda having the highest female representation, proportionally, of parliamentarians in the world—currently 61.3% in the lower house of parliament and 53.3% Cabinet seats are occupied by women.
She said that interestingly, and as a fact about gender equality in Rwanda, these women did not have to fight for their rights in the streets, but rather, these rights were achieved through a conducive environment, legislative action, and visionary leadership.
Mrs Kagame said that as the past year highlighted the gender inequities around us, together we must continue challenging the status quo.
“To the sons, brothers and husbands, we count on you to adhere to the “HEforSHE” principles, and walk the journey with us to level the playing field, and effectively build the road to recovery,” she said.
Picking on this aspect as a requirement for other countries to follow through, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities said women’s selfless hearts have played a big role in the pandemic to not only take care of themselves but others in families, and for front liners in every crisis.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said that there is a need for action now and recollecting efforts to bridge the generation equality gaps where women have 50% equal opportunity as men as declared at the first global women meeting in Mexico, to the Beijing Convention and subsequent gender declaration meetings.
In the post Covid-19 recovery plan focused on women, Nkoana-Mashabane asked for equal opening among African countries to promote women in trade (She-Trade) under the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) deal.