There has been universal praise for Rwanda's post-conflict recovery, economically, socially and legally, and in terms of women's rights Rwanda has also made huge progress. At 51% it has the highest proportion of women's parliamentary representation in the world, and these female politicians are playing a central role in achieving equality and justice for women in Rwanda.
The UN Women's 'Progress for the World's Women in Pursuit of Justice' report for 2011-2012, praises the work of these women as a 'pivotal factor in achieving progressive legal reform on land, marriage and inheritance'. Thanks to their dedication and hard work women now have legal rights of inheritance and land ownership equal to that of their male counterparts. They have also pushed through reforms that give women greater access to legal protection against violence. Rwanda led the way on justice for women raped as a consequence of war, with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) securing the first ever conviction for rape as an instrument of genocide and crime against humanity.
However, the provision of justice for women who have suffered violence or sexual violence, does not mean that it is always achieved. In the 1994 genocide it is estimated that between 250,000-500,000 women were raped over 100 days, yet only 1-2% of investigators at the ICTR are dedicated to the area of sexual violence. Another problem faced by rape survivors seeking justice is the social stigma attached to rape. One survivor highlighted in the report had this to say of her experience: 'When I returned, everyone knew I had testified. My fiance refused to marry me once he knew I had been raped…today I would not accept to testify, to be traumatised for a second time.' Often, after rejection by their husband or family, women are unable to support themselves or their children financially.
The work Women for Women International do in Rwanda can help women seek justice and rebuild their lives by helping them through the specific problems they face. This is achieved through the year-long Women for Women International programme, where legal and women's rights is an important part of the curriculum. The rights awareness training helps women identify opportunities to seek justice for the suffering they have gone through. In addition to this women are taught skills like tailoring and basket-making techniques, that allow them to make a living independently and support themselves and their children. At the end of the programme participants will have begun their road to recovery, gaining practical skills, knowledge of their rights, and the confidence to turn this into a life they want to lead.
Do your part to help Rwandan women on their road to recovery by getting involved in our 2012 Join me on the Bridge campaign. By taking part in an event or organising your own, you can help raise awareness of the situation faced by women in war-torn countries like Rwanda, and also fundraise to sponsor a woman on one of our programmes. Visit the website to find out more.