On Saturday 8th March, the world marked International Women’s Day and celebrated the progress made by women globally, whilst illuminating the progress that still has to be made to guarantee equity for women. This year, the global theme for international Women’s day was: ‘equality for women, is progress for all’.
In line with this theme, from the 10th – 21st March, the United Nations held the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) at the UN headquarters in New York. The purpose was to discuss the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment.
To mark this event, OneUN Rwanda, under the leadership of UN women, implemented focus group discussions with university students centred on the theme of ‘Access and participation of women’. The purpose of the focus group discussions was to raise the issues of access to education, politics, business and health, and attain the perspective of the Rwandan youth on these issues. The focus group discussions were led by female moderators selected due to their success in their respective fields, and expertise in the aforementioned sectors. The moderators featured prolific and inspiring women including Dr. Maria Mujawamariya Mugabo, Dr. Marie Aimee Muhimpundu, vice mayor of Kigali Hope Tumukunde, esteemed former Lt Col Rose Kabuye, and guest of honour, Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, president of Rwanda Women Parliamentarians Forum.
Dr. Maria Mujawamariya Mugabo, head of Family Health Program in WHO Rwanda, moderated the discussion on ‘Access to Health’, alongside Dr. Marie Aimee Muhimpundu, Head of Non-Communicable diseases unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).
The focus group discussions were held at College of Business and Economics in Kigali, Rwanda. The event was hosted by Master of Ceremony, Edouard Munyamaliza, Executive Secretary of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, and opened by UN Women representative Diana Ofwona, who stated that the event was ‘an opportunity to celebrate progress made by women, and to work even harder to achieve gender equality’. She continued by mentioning that in the health sector ‘there are areas where we (women) have not reached levels of equity…we have situations where women still do not have access to health’, and gave the example of access to sanitation and reproductive services.
To further broach the subject of ‘Access to Health’, Dr. Maria Mugabo (WHO) and Dr. Marie Aimee Muhimpundu (RBC) led the discussion with 14 students from the College of Business and Economics. The discussion centred around access to reproductive health, and students (both male and female) discussed their personal challenges regarding access to reproductive services and information. Furthermore, the students provided insightful solutions to these challenges, and presented ideas for the way forward regarding equal access to health for women. Many students praised the work of the Rwandan community health workers who regularly provide information on reproductive health and contraception to their villages. In her message for this year’s International Womens Day, WHO’s Director-General echoed the importance of access to reproductive services: ‘The health sector can do much to free women by ensuring they have the access to all the health services they need, including sexual and reproductive health services’.
Following the discussions, the students represented their respective focus groups and presented their ideas to the moderators and each other. The event raised interesting conversation topics surrounding access to health, business, politics and education and all women emphasised the importance of mentorship and role models in increasing female participation in all these sectors.
All discussions from the event will be consolidated into a document which will be sent to UN Women headquarters as part of the OneUN Rwanda’s country specific contributions to the global CW58 report.
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Dr. Maria Mugabo (WHO) (left) and Dr. Marie Aimee Muhimpundu (right) lead discussion on ‘Access to Health’ with 14 students from the College of Business and Economics
Dr. Marie Aimee Muhimpundu (RBC) (right) and Dr. Maria Mugabo (WHO) (left)
Students at College of Business and Economics on International Women’s Day
Photo Credit: Sheila Mburu / WHO