Africa We Want

A YEAR AT UNDP RWANDA: CELEBRATING GENDER EQUALITY AND WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AGENDA.

As March unfolds, marking a year since joining the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Rwanda, I find myself reflecting not only on personal milestones but also on the collective strides made towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. This reflection is particularly poignant as we commemorate International Women’s Day, underscoring the theme "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.”

By Aimee Muziranenge leads UNDP’s Transformational Governance Portfolio in Rwanda. She is an advocate for gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment and social justice.

Globally, UNDP’s strategic vision for 2022-2025 places a strong emphasis on gender equality as a key accelerator for sustainable development. Through various global initiatives like Gender Equality Seal Certification programme and Equanomics, among others, UNDP is spearheading efforts to dismantle barriers and create opportunities for women to thrive. Additionally, the African Young Women Leaders Fellowship Programme aims to cultivate a new generation of female leaders, empowering them to drive positive change in Africa and beyond.

However, despite these commendable efforts, global gender empowerment deficits persist. On average, women achieve only 60% of their full potential, reflecting a 28% gender gap across key human development dimensions such as health, education, inclusion, decision-making, and violence against women. The Twin Indices on Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality report 2023 underscores the urgent need for action, revealing that less than 1% of women and girls live in countries with high levels of empowerment and gender parity.

Walking the gender equity and equality talk within its walls

Within UNDP Rwanda, these challenges serve as a call for more action. Through internal measures aimed at promoting gender equality and empowering women to take on leadership roles to initiatives supporting greater representation of women in boardrooms and decision-making processes, UNDP with its partners is fostering an inclusive and empowering environment for all.

The women’s room at the UNDP Rwanda office reinforces the idea that women’s specific needs are valued and prioritized. This space allows breastfeeding mothers, pregnant women, and other women to work more comfortably, fostering an environment that nurtures women’s growth. It’s within these spaces that women at UNDP can effectively balance family and work commitments, contributing to their roles and responsibilities with dedication. This initiative, coupled with the fact that a number of committees, such as the Learning, Compliance Review Panel, and Staff Engagement Committees are led by women, resonates powerfully with the principles of the global UNDP 2030 People Strategy.

UNDP has also been keen at empowering men as allies. A prime example is our Gender Equality Committee, led by a male chairperson. This intentional choice breaks stereotypes and promotes collaboration between genders in dismantling barriers. By placing a man at the helm, UNDP emphasizes that gender equality is a shared responsibility. Our commitment extends beyond committee leadership. All male staff members actively participate in initiatives promoting gender equality, challenge harmful stereotypes, and foster an inclusive workplace. This cultivates a culture where everyone feels valued and respected, recognizing that gender equality benefits all.

As the lead of the Transformational Governance Portfolio, I spearhead gender equality and equity measures as well as women empowerment. Over time, I have learned that this starts at an individual level. I’ve been inspired not just to shoulder responsibilities, but also to utilize platforms to share narratives that embody empowerment. From prestigious platforms like TEDx Kigali to Women Deliver 2023, I’ve challenged gender norms perpetuating inequalities. My TEDx talk titled “Breaking the Mold: the price we pay for pink and blue,” aimed to challenge gender stereotypes and highlight the detrimental effects of biased gender norms on individuals and society as a whole.

Pioneering the Gender Equality progress beyond our walls

Currently, 18 entities in Rwanda boast the prestigious Gold Gender Equality Seal Certification, signifying their commitment to promoting equal opportunities, diverse leadership, safe work environments, and eradicating gender-based disparities and sexual harassment. This aligns seamlessly with UNDP’s vision for an inclusive society.

UNDP Rwanda played a key role alongside the Private Sector Federation, Rwanda Standards Board, and the Gender Monitoring Office in developing the first National Gender Standard (RS560 2023) on the entire continent. This landmark standard establishes benchmarks for gender equality, furthering our collective efforts towards an equitable society.

Additionally, supporting women’s participation in political processes and enhancing their capacities for peacekeeping is contributing to inclusive decision-making and sustainable peace. Moreover, facilitating women cross-border traders is vital in expanding their economic opportunities and fostering transboundary peace processes.

These efforts and more signify our commitment to advancing gender equality and empowering women in various spheres.

Personal reflection

As I reflect on my own journey, the first year at UNDP and the opportunities that have come my way, I am reminded of the immense potential that lies within every girl and woman. Each of us possesses unique talents, passions, and perspectives that have the power to drive positive change in our communities and beyond.

It’s essential for girls and women to seize every opportunity available to them, whether it’s in education, career advancement, or leadership roles. We must never underestimate our abilities or allow fear to hold us back from pursuing our dreams. Let’s speak up, take risks, push boundaries and use our voices to advocate for equality and justice. Like I always tell my little girls, “never forget to use your skills to innovate and create, and your experiences to inspire and uplift others.”

Together, we can break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create a world where every girl and woman is empowered to reach her full potential. Let’s stand tall, support one another, and continue to strive for progress and equality in all aspects of life. The world is waiting for us to shine, so let’s embrace the opportunity and make our voices heard.

Happy International Womens Day!

Author: MANZI
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