The First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame has called on countries in the East African Community (EAC) and the African continent to do more to empower women, if they must achieve tangible change in their respective societies.
Mrs Kagame, who made the call while addressing the Gender Equality Forum at the 5th East African Youth Leadership Hybrid Summit, known as the YouLead Summit 2021, said that despite considerable progress in empowering women over the past 15, stark differences between the two sexes remain in place.
Quoting the words of celebrated Pan-Africanist, Late Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, Mrs. Kagame said that it is impossible to create a better world, without bettering the lot of women.
“The world cannot be a better place, if women’s conditions are not better in it,” she said, adding that while those words were penned in 2006, they still resonate now, despite our countries’ advances of the past 15 years, in granting women equal status, equal opportunities, and equal protection under the law.
“Perhaps the greatest indicator, of how much further our fight must take us, is the fact that discussions on female equality are still being held, and justifiably so,” the First Lady said.
She pointed out that to this day, the biological differences between the sexes are frequently mischaracterized, as a justification for gender inequality yet they are not, but rather an indicator of how complementary the two sexes can be.
Citing Rwanda’s example, the First Lady pointed out that to build a post-94 Rwanda, the contributions of all available human capital, had to be put to use and women came in to play a vital role.
“The nurturing nature of women, the sensitivity that nourishes their unconditional love for their children, needed to be capitalised upon, to engage an entire nation, in the testing task of communal healing,”
“The gift that womanhood offers the community, is the antithesis of enmity and death: love and life,” Mrs. Kagame reiterated.
For a continent that has been scarred by centuries of oppression, but bears the resilience and drive to overcome, the First Lady said that Africa needs to harness those energies and tap into them to make a difference.
“Gender equality isn’t about uplifting one gender. It is about uplifting the community, by empowering every individual, that can contribute to our society’s progress, well-being, and stability,”
“Gender equality is the common appreciation of the unseen, yet essential, efforts of invisible women, to craft the first notion of “home”, most of us have ever known,” the First Lady said.
She pointed out that achieving gender equality offers the continent a chance to give back to the countless women who have dedicated their lives to have a place in society.
“We owe these women we have loved, and whose trials we were not blind to, the promise that we will strive for a world where our daughters will know protection, support and regard,” she said.
“Our modern world’s history is no secret. We all know the long-term damage, the injustice, and the cruelty, of being defined as second-class global citizens,” the First Lady said.
Mrs. Kagame called on women and girls to take the lead in the journey for emancipation, noting that it is not easy to negotiate with parties in power that remain insensitive to the plight of women.
The First Lady used the opportunity to highlight the work of her organisation, Imbuto Foundation, in empowering young girls through education scholarships and rewarding their efforts but said it is still not enough, calling for more efforts.
“It is one thing to reward academically-promising girls, it is another to create an ecosystem, where these girls can channel their work ethic, into stimulating, and intricate fields,” she said.
She pointed out that the Africa envisioned in Agenda 2063 should be an Africa where the African woman thrives in key sectors of the economy that are male dominated. For that to happen, greater efforts must be invested.
The First Lady emphasised that for all the love women and girls receive, they re-invest tenfold in their communities.
“Give a woman safety, and she will give you serenity. Allow a woman knowledge, and she will raise your children to be wise. Give the woman a seed, and you will watch a fruit garden,” Mrs. Kagame said, reiterating the message in Kiswahili.
The First Lady used the opportunity to pay tribute to the President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who was represented at the summit by the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.
“I am proud that this discussion, and these strides for advancement in gender equality, are happening here, in a country led by a woman,” Mrs. Kagame said.