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  • Participants at the dialogue shared perspectives about feminism in Rwanda.

    Participants at the dialogue shared perspectives about feminism in Rwanda. | Photo: Rwanda Women’s Network

Published 23 June 2019

Feminist groups and civil society organizations shared perspectives on the situation of women the country.

Rwanda Women’s Network, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promote and improve the socio-economic welfare of women in Rwanda, held Saturday a dialogue in the capital city of Kigali, to share views on the general state of feminism in the Central East African country.

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The dialogue was aimed to rethink the Charter of Feminist Principles for African Feminists within the national context and from local priorities. Another purpose was to seek and invent a word for feminism and feminist in the national dialects.

The founder of Rwanda Women’s Network, Mary Balikungeri, said there was a "need to remind the Rwandan society the fights and efforts made by African women in the past to advocate and promote women’s rights and for that purpose," adding that the charter should be translated and spread all over the country to assist women and allow them to reinforce and line up their feminist movements and agendas.

The aforementioned Charter was redacted in 2006 in the West African country of Ghana, to reflect the feminist movement on the continent and to serve as a tool women could use for monitoring the development of their own organizations. But also to serve as a tie for diverse feminist ideologies and reaffirm the commitment to break down patriarchy.

“We felt that by documenting, we will be able to show and affirm why we call ourselves feminists. We need to know that gender equality emerged out of feminism, but with time we have toned down the agenda so let’s not lose the site of our core business in reaffirming women’s rights, justice, and addressing these issues in the charter and that’s what this country stands for,” Balikungeri said.

For Donatha Gihana, an activist who participated in the dialogue, women in Rwanda need to first understand then rally for feminist leadership. It is also their political role as feminist to fight patriarchy.

“Our identity as African feminists, our interest is seeing that an African woman advances, we are diverse but have a common feminist identity,” she said.

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While another participant, Dominique Alonga Uwase, a feminist and founder of Imagine We Rwanda, an organization which aims at changing the reading culture among children and youth in the country, said that while searching for a name, the focus should be on the idea carried out by the feminist movement, which is grounded in the word “woman.”

“We need to think about the generation that is going to be using the word, and so we need to involve the youth because those are the ones that are most likely to use the words themselves. The feminist movement is transformative so it has to center the woman because she was the center of the movement,” she said.

The founder of RWAMREC, an organization aiming to promote gender equality and positive masculinities, Fidel Rutayisire, said that the name should derive from the objectives of the concept.

“Feminism is not women against men but rather it involves about dismantling patriarchy, privileges, and power that women suffered with for a long time, so I identify myself as a feminist ally because patriarchy affects both men and women. Oppression was made by men to the women and as a man, I have a role to play in holding our men accountable,” he stated.

Others such as Josephine Uwamariya, the country's director of ActionAid, pled for raising awareness and educating people about the need to join the movement as well as address their misconceptions about feminism.

This dialogue took place in a general context where African countries are gradually endorsing feminism, in a continent where gender subjugation has historically always been acceptable. The fight to make feminism a movement that both men and women can actively advocate for means a huge change in mentalities and more and more feminist organizations are fighting to achieve that aim.

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