RWANDA is the first country in the world where more than half
the MPs are women; gender equality is enshrined in the
constitution; and girls are as likely to attend school as boys.
The legal officer at Human Rights First Rwanda Association
(HRFRA), Brenda Kayitesi, who was in London on Monday for the
launch of a new campaign, "Unlocking Potential", by the charity
Feed the Minds, says that she aims at seeing poor women in rural
areas sharing in this process of empowerment.
"I have seen African women - and African young girls especially
- never having the opportunity to choose what they want, to make
decisions that affect their lives," she said on Tuesday.
Feed the Minds is an adult-literacy charity launched 50 years
ago by the Archbishop of York at that time, Donald Coggan. The
HRFRA is one of the organisations funded by the charity, and is
currently training 1500 legal volunteers to educate women about
their rights, and help prevent abuses, such as illegal
It is also lobbying the government to enforce the law which
gives women the same rights to inherit land as men.
Ms Kayitesi said that the land-rights programme was helping
women to challenge attempts to deprive them of their rights.
"Before 1994, women could not own land," she said. "Now that they
can, we are trying to change the mindset and raise awareness in
She gave the example of Fortunée, whose in-laws, after her
husband's death, tried to evict her, but the HRFRA was able to
help. She has since been able to secure an education and medical
insurance for her two daughters, bought livestock, built herself a
house, and used a bank loan to diversify her crops.
"When you empower a woman, you are educating the whole country,"
Ms Kayitesi said. "I would like to see Rwandan women be more
confident in themselves, because I have seen that they have the
ability. "They are strong women, and once you empower them they
usually do things that you cannot even imagine, and in a very short
period of time. . . If we empower women, the whole country will be