How women in uniform epitomise Rwanda’s journey of resilience, transformation

As the world marks International Women’s Day on March 8, the significance of this day resonates uniquely in Rwanda resilience. For Rwandan women, it symbolises strength, particularly in light of the country’s tumultuous history, where they endured unimaginable suffering during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In the last three decades, Rwandan women have played major roles in the nation’s journey towards liberation, growth, and sustainability. Their contributions have been felt across all sectors, shaping the fabric of Rwandan society.

However, it is crucial to reflect on the specific role of women in uniform, serving in different security forces in Rwanda, whose efforts have been instrumental in Rwanda’s development over the last three decades.

The memory lane of Rwanda’s transformation is lined with the stories of these remarkable women in uniform. From the earliest days of struggle to present-day strides in peacekeeping and nation-building, their dedication and sacrifice have been monumental.

They have stood at the forefront of conflict resolution, peacekeeping missions, and rebuilding efforts, demonstrating unparalleled courage and resilience.

In every sector, from defence to education, healthcare to governance, Rwandan women in uniform have left an indelible mark.

Their leadership and determination have shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations of women to thrive and contribute to the nation’s progress.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us honour the countless Rwandan women who have shaped the nation’s destiny through their unwavering commitment and resilience.

These women have demonstrated immense capabilities in shaping the developmental and transformational journey of a shattered and destroyed nation.

In the aftermath of the Genocide, women found themselves at the centre of post-genocide reconstruction efforts, shaping a future that fits Rwandans.

This major role proves the fact that “women in conflict aren’t only victims but have the potential to become agents of change and direct contributors to peace restoration.”

However, while the situation at the time created fertile ground for faster and deeper involvement of women in all matters of national life, women empowerment was already ingrained in the philosophy of RPF-Inkotanyi, right from its inception.

This is the inspiration behind the robust policies geared at empowering women which were enacted as soon as the government of national unity was ushered in, and which created an enabling environment for women to play essential roles in overcoming conflict and preventing violence in society.

Peace begins at home

Like stated above, Rwanda’s success wouldn’t have unfolded without the visionary leadership that established the principle of inclusivity of both men and women at all levels of governance, right from the beginning.

Similarly, in the security sector, the government required increased diversity of well-educated men and women from different professions to serve.

Women’s participation in Rwanda’s security sector is of significant importance, given their essential roles in achieving domestic security and contributing to both United Nations peacekeeping missions and bilateral security agreements signed by Rwanda.

The participation of Rwandan uniformed women and the subsequent success for which they have been commended, did not spring out of nowhere. Courtesy of the philosophy I addressed above, we had hundreds of young women who played a critical role in the liberation struggle.

However, their number remained smaller, compared to their brothers.

Over time, the number of women in security sector has drastically increased, as illustrated in the national gender statistics report, which recorded Rwanda’s female peacekeepers under United Nations peacekeeping missions seeing an increase from 16% in 2015 to 25% in 2021, emphasising the importance of women in this field.

One could argue that although numbers matter, we should value the unique and essential roles they bring to the table in shaping security agendas.

Both the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and Rwanda National Police (RNP) have heavily invested in achieving increased participation of women in their institutions and ensured gender mainstreaming in all their activities, including peacekeeping mission engagements.

Besides, both institutions invest in capacity building that facilitates both men and women to meet their tasks effectively before deployments through pre-deployment trainings and other specialised courses.

These activities support officers to familiarise themselves with international laws and conduct practical exercises to increase their readiness in peacekeeping.

Today, we have RDF and RNP female officers in all peacekeeping missions where Rwanda is deployed in countries like South Sudan, Central African Republic, and Mozambique, to meet security requirements and support humanitarian programmes.

Rwanda is among the leading contributors of female troops to UN peacekeeping operations globally, including an all-female peacekeeping unit that is deployed by RNP in South Sudan.

Another notable win is the adoption of engendering Rwanda National Police contingents. Nowadays, most of the Formed Police Units (FPUs) deployed in peacekeeping are at a 50/50 male-female ratio.

These decisions prove that Rwanda clearly understands the role of women in uniform toward fulfilling their domestic duties while promoting and protecting the human rights of its people and elsewhere.

Moreover, the RNP introduced gender focal points as a key function in the RNP structures to handle both issues affecting women and children in our society.

A gender policy for the RNP was also launched in 2014 and has since been a catalyst for promoting and empowering women police officers.

The recent promotions within the RDF saw Rwanda for the first time get seven women at the rank of colonel, specialised in different disciplines, is the outcome of such a journey.

Within police, it is worth mentioning that Rwanda has had a female commissioner general of police in the past, and the current deputy commissioner general for administration and personnel is also female. More examples can be drawn from institutions such as the Rwanda Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration, which is headed by a female director-general, Rwanda Correction Services (RCS) has a female Deputy Commissioner General, and the current chairperson of the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission is female.

There is no better advocate for human rights and global peace than women.

When conflicts arise, human rights violations increase, causing harm to women and children, the most vulnerable in society. Resolution 1325 has been a guiding principle to guide female security sector actors in preventing and responding to these issues.

Women in uniform play a critical role in preventing threats that expose women and children to violence and mistreatment during peacetimes and majorly in conflict situations.

Countries affected by conflict, therefore, require unique attention and unique solutions, of which women’s participation in resolving such issues remains critical.

As we mark International Women’s Day, let us continue to celebrate the achievement of our women in uniform and support efforts to amplify the voices and contributions of women in all sectors of our country.

Source: newstimes

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