Where are the women? Lessons from Rwanda

“In Rwanda there is a saying. The woman is the heart of the house, so if your heart is working well the whole body is also to benefit,”

Many people in Pakistan may only relate Rwanda with the 2004 Hollywood flick, Hotel Rwanda, that tells the compassionate tale of a hotel manager saving some 1200 Tutsi minority people by sheltering in his Hotel during one of the worst Genocide of the Century. The genocide culminated between the Rwanda’ s Hutus and Tutsi tribes resulting into systematic extermination of almost 500,000 to 1,000,00 people.  

Rwanda, however, has become much more than a mere typical war torn African country , it has become a country led , run and managed by women, with almost 56% of the women representation in Parliament , Rwanda tops the Female Mp list in the world, ironically Pakistan stands at the 67th standing on the same index of women parliamentarians. Where as among some of the prominent western Countries, female representation is surprisingly low i.e. France -18.9%, United Kingdom-22% and United States -16.8%. Rwanda experienced civil war, hatred and bloodshed, but they arose as a nation as a phoenix out of ashes and drafted their Constitution of peace, whose preamble states:

“We, the People of Rwanda, in the wake of the genocide that was organized and supervised by unworthy leaders and other perpetrators and that decimated more than a million sons and daughters of Rwanda;

Resolved to fight the ideology of genocide and all its manifestations and to eradicate ethnic, regional and any other form of divisions;

Determined to fight dictatorship by putting in place democratic institutions and leaders freely elected by ourselves…”

The Constitution has been a colossal humanitarian achievement in aftermath of the hate literature of “Hutu Ten Commandment” (refer our hate literature castrating Shias, Ahmadis, Minorities, Transsexuals, so on and so forth). The rise of women in the Political and government positions was not just the consequence of loss of men during the civil war but an conscious effort by the  Rwandan women to include themselves into the rebuilding of their country and Nation. When the Rwandan genocide ended it left Rwanda with an over whelming women population, women of Rwanda however were like the rest of the women of the Thrid world, that is, a home maker, a child bearer and an unpaid worker with no right to property inheritance.  It is said that “war start in the minds of men”, note that it says men and not women. Women are more compassionate and humane; this quality has long been considered inappropriate for the bloody corridors of power. Still , these women stood up to the task and despite the fact that no miracle of mosses occurred , in the last five years , one million Rwandans have emerged from poverty, Hutu and Tutsis have started to live in peace though lots more to be done but they have started the journey. Positive peace can exist and women as the half of the population of the world can play a vital role in the effort, as a Rwandan woman narrates: “having to sit next to the wife of the man who killed your husband or the women whose partner is living in exile after murdering your brother” is not easy yet these women have learnt the skills of co existence.

We have some lessons to draw from Rwanda, Women all over the world including Pakistan are mostly considered either a window dressing in the enlightened First world or Enlightened moderation symbol for the aid seeking third world countries. Pakistan is facing an internal war, its societal fabric is in tartars with sectarian, ethnic and gender hatreds on the rise. We are although short of a mass catastrophe like genocide but we are still brutally violated. Women right movements in Pakistan if not more, certainly lack directions. May be another angle to peace can be initiated with women’s empowerment in the Public sphere, by elevating the status of women from show piece to the beacons of peace. Any movement focusing on peace by women just even at the household level will have the deep lasting effects, it can change the mind sets, alter the cultural aspects of violence in the society. Women are to change themselves, elevate themselves, no one will come to the aid of the weak if weak is not willing to be strong.


About quratulain16

A wanderer in soul and body
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