Talking Gender: With Alida Irakoze

Q How should Gender roles be changed to balance the status of both men and women?
A Balancing the status of men and women will not be brought by changing Gender Roles, instead gender roles should be well defined, developed and respected by both parties to ensure a balanced gender community. Traditionally, it has been perceived that there are tasks done by men that can’t be done by women. This retarded the function of many households, hence affecting both community and country development in general. 

This was proven by many cases where boys would be educated but leaving out the girls, as the 'expected' role for females would be "home-caring" whereas men were the ones to plan and get involved in all political and social- economic activities. Psychologically, this increased women’s vulnerability, depriving them of the rights to think further, plan and participate actively in developmental activities. 

However much the physical status of men and women can't be changed due to nature, it can not be a reason for putting men on the forefront in some of activities. As we are in the world of science and technology, even construction and military occupations that were perceived to be sectors that required a lot of physical strength have evolved with today’s world civilization and development. This should therefore go hand in hand with Women's Empowerment and gender balance should as well be raised by focusing on the mutual division of labor based on ones proven knowledge and skills. This should all be reinforced by  open communication between the two genders. 

Q Are the rights of women in your country respected and protected well enough?
A Rwanda is among the countries that are leading by example in relation to respecting Women's Rights and Empowerment as shown in the leadership approach where women in Rwanda constitute more than 40% in parliament! Girls' education has been uplifted and they prove to be among the best performers.
Rwanda is promoting and practicing equal rights to both boys and girls, however there are still cases of gender based violence, despite a tremendous decrease. Sensitization and the reinforcement of gender and Women's rights policies are needed to ensure they are respected. 

Q In your opinion, what should be the priority for resolving Gender Issues in Africa?  
A In Africa, gender equality advocacy is perceived to be negative for existing culture and values. Men see it as a way to raise women’s voices over them and promote women to disrespect their husbands. With this perception among others, it brings resistance to adapt gender concept in some of African communities.
As a way forward, our priority should be to provide clear definitions of Gender, to develop guidelines and policies adapted to each country and to establish strategies to reinforce the policies put forth.