The Head of State made the disclosure on Monday 17th July at the official opening of Women Deliver Conference 2023 at BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.
Held under the theme: ‘Spaces, Solidarity, and Solutions’, the conference brings together about 6,000 delegates from across the world in person and more than 200,000 online.
In recent decades, Kagame stated, there have been meaningful results in closing the gap between women and men in terms of opportunity and achievement.
He however underscored that women remain vulnerable to various forms of injustice and are more often employed in the informal sector or even expected to provide unpaid labor.
Despite the many efforts in bridging the gender gap, inequalities have been exacerbated by some political pushback movements in certain contexts.
Moreover, women and girls are bearing a disproportionate share of the burden of the overlapping health, climate, and economic crisis which the world has faced over the past two years.
Recent studies show that it could take more than a century to achieve gender equality targets at the current rate of progress.
To this end, Kagame stressed the need to do things differently with a sense of urgency.
“Much more remains to be done to tackle bias attitudes about gender which are deeply embedded in our political, social, and economic systems. All of us share the responsibility to play an active role in changing these negative mindsets,” he stated.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Chair of the Board, Women Deliver, noted that there has been progress made over the past three decades in achieving gender equality as well as losses in some cases.
“We need to be inclusive, accessible and co-create. We want to bring together champions of gender equality from all sectors. The solutions we need are political, as well as social and economic, we have to make sure that our momentum becomes unstoppable,” she added.
Mlambo-Ngcuka also hailed the men who are attending the conference and their work done by going beyond the patriarchal privileges and actually carrying out their responsibilities.
Sima Bahous, UN Women’s Executive Director, said that they are seeing pushback against gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights, as well as regression in sexual and reproductive health rights, increased gender-based violence, and discrimination.
“In an era of policy crisis, including climate, conflict and Covid-19 recovery, the power and imperative of equality could not be more urgent...We do this by ensuring that we have the essential data, gender statistics, and information. We do this by crushing biases, intentional and unconscious. We do this by making sure that we engage men and boys.”
Progress can be seen in the number of women in legislative positions which has doubled in the current generation, reduced global maternal mortality, and in women’s increased life expectancy. At least 155 countries have laws on domestic violence and 140 countries have legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Rwanda’s efforts in promoting gender equality
Rwanda continues to rank at the top of the list of countries that empower women worldwide, owing to its conducive environment for promoting gender equality in leadership positions, including politics, and at all levels.
President Kagame highlighted several examples of what the country has accomplished in this regard. These include the integration of the annual gender budget statement, ensuring that public spending considers the differential impact on men and women.
Moreover, Rwanda has invested in community-level programs aimed at involving men in discussions about the significance of sharing childcare responsibilities and preventing domestic violence.
“Our priorities are to advance gender equality across all sectors, especially digital and financial inclusion, and to continue challenging traditional gender norms,” he said.
“As the world rapidly evolves, we must join forces to ensure that advances in technology work for all of us rather than creating new sources of inequality...change is difficult and does not happen overnight, but together with sustained effort we can make a decisive difference.”