Mrs. Kagame was speaking at the Global Gender Summit during a high-level panel session themed; “Realizing a Demographic Dividend through Investments in Gender Equality”, which tackled priority interventions in addressing persisting gender inequalities.
Despite the solid role that they have historically played in societies, Mrs. Kagame said women have been disempowered.
“Growing up I thought and I actually believed, that ‘what a man can do, a woman can do just as well.’ I maintain that stand,” she said.
“As fate would have it, the irony of our dark history, suddenly threw our women into a multitude of roles, as they had to be the mothers, husbands, fathers, brothers, comforters and guardians,” she added.
Mrs. Kagame emphasized that sustainable socio-economic growth can be achieved when everyone’s full contribution to the economy is given its rightful value and when access to health, education, profitable opportunities and financial inclusion are no longer the privilege of a selected few.
First Lady of Kenya, Margaret Kenyatta, highlighted an example of how investing in female health workers can particularly drive economic value for countries, something she said her country has experienced.
“We have seen the impact their (women) work has given us as Kenya. I have seen how trained healthcare community workers have played a critical role in filling the gap to alleviate health staff shortages,” she noted.
Mrs. Kenyatta said that women face similar challenges that limit their ability to engage in development as equal citizens.
The challenges include lack of access to credit, lack of influence due to low representation in decision-making positions, lack of control or ownership of productive assets like land, and lack of financial control to make spending decisions on education and health, among others.
“In Kenya, we envisage a country where every woman and girl enjoys gender equality; a country where all legal, social and economic barriers that hinder the progress of women and girls’ are removed,” she noted.
The session featured a panel discussion which observed that women still face barriers to access sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to labor market opportunities, among other things.