Harmful Social Norms, Stereotypes Undermining Gender Equality – Plan International Rwanda 

William Mutero, Plan International Rwanda Country Director

As the world prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, Plan International Rwanda has called upon duty bearers and stakeholders including the private sector to join hands in fighting gender inequalities, harmful social norms and behaviors. 

“There is a need to change attitudes, negative social norms, and other harmful practices from the household up to national level,” said William Mutero, Plan International Country Director last week.  

Although the government of Rwanda has made remarkable progress in supporting and promoting gender equality with much focus on women and girls across various levels, a lot still needs to be done, especially in spaces where women and girls are less seen. 

Mutero says that there are still considerable gaps with women participation in sectors like mining and quarrying, construction, transportation and storage among others.  

“For example, females are only 5.8% in the mining and quarrying sector compared to 94.2% males; 14.6% in the construction sector compared to 85.4%, and 3.0% in the transportation and storage compared to 97.0%. All these need our attention to accelerate gender equality and inclusion,” Mutero said. 

“More so, we need to stop gender stereotypes and harassment and abuse perpetuated by the media including social media. Media should be at the forefront of driving gender equality not for demeaning girls and women. More often, what we see are girls’ and women’s bodies marketing products or else body shamed.”

Plan International Rwanda is one of the leading organizations that advocate for increased investments for girls and women but also for the change of policies and other harmful practices that justify gender inequality and negative social norms against girls and women using various platforms. 

“Like women, girls should have the right to decide on how and when to use their bodies, as they transition from childhood into adulthood. They should have the right to access modern contraceptives, which is currently difficult for girls under 18, yet teenage pregnancies are on the rise. We can encourage abstinence, but not everyone will take the idea, so we have to facilitate and accommodate those who decide a different direction,” further said Mutero. 

Investments made

To support and foster an enabling environment for gender equality and girls’ rights, Plan International Rwanda has made a worthwhile investment of Rwf 6 billion in Financial year 2020/2021. The Organisation intends to spend the same amount for Financial year 2021/2022. 

Mutero said that his organisation is committed to engaging with different actors including the government to embed gender equality and inclusion across interventions. 

“We will also continue to work with children, especially girls, young people, women and partners at all levels to influence primary duty bearers to strengthen policies and spending to address priority issues related to gender equality, and girls’ rights.” 

Plan International Rwanda estimates to have directly and indirectly reached 206,459 girls, under the age of 18, and 262,744 women in the financial year 2020/2021. Another 8000 households were supported with cash transfers for food, and more than 2000 with non-food items like mattresses, sewing machines, and hairdressing equipment.

Voices of Beneficiaries

To support the girls’ and young women’s agency, Mutero says that the Organisation also empowers girls to speak up against barriers that hinder the attainment of their full potential. 

This is confirmed by Faith Mutesi, a University graduate who was supported by Plan International Rwanda.

She said that women and girls’ conditions and position in society should be boosted and this should cut across all sectors. 

As the world prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March, Mutero admits that a lot has been done but a lot still needs to be done to promote gender equality in all spaces, at all levels and in all contexts.

“We need women’s representation that reflects all women and girls in all their diversity and abilities, and across all cultural, social, economic, and political situations. This is the only way we will get the real societal change that incorporates women in decision-making,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations women executive director said in her published statement this week.

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian Organisation (non-profit) that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. They believe in the power and potential of every child. For more than 83 years, the Organisation has been supporting children’s rights from birth to adulthood. They have done so, through driving changes in practice and policy at local, national and global levels using their reach, experience and knowledge. Plan International has been operating in Rwanda since 2007. 




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