April 13, 2024

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Exclusive Interview with Rwanda’s Minister of Environment on International Women’s Day

Rwanda's Minister of Environment Dr. Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya

By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

In honor of International Women’s Day, TOP AFRICA NEWS had the privilege of Interviewing Rwanda’s Minister of Environment on the important role of women in environmental conservation and sustainable development. Join us as we delve into the Minister’s insights and initiatives in empowering women to be leaders in protecting our planet for future generations.

  1. Importance of Women’s involvement in conservation efforts in Rwanda and how they have contributed to the shaping of the country’s future in the environmental conservation field.

Women’s involvement in conservation efforts in Rwanda has a vital importance as they bring unique perspectives, skills, and dedication to the conservation sector. Women play a big role and contribution to the agriculture sector; they are responsible for ensuring availability of water and cooking energy as well as sanitation and hygiene for their families. Their contribution has been instrumental in shaping the country’s future in conservation by fostering community engagement, promoting sustainable practices, and preserving biodiversity. Women’s participation in activities such as reforestation, wildlife monitoring, and environmental education has greatly contributed to the success of Rwanda’s conservation initiatives, leading to positive outcomes for both people and nature.

2. What specific initiatives or programs does the Ministry of Environment have in place to empower women in the conservation Sector in Rwanda?

The Ministry of Environment has implemented various initiatives and programs aimed at empowering and supporting women in the conservation sector in Rwanda. These include capacity-building workshops, training programs, and financial support to enable women to actively participate in conservation activities. Additionally, the Ministry promotes gender-sensitive policies and practices to create a conducive environment for women to thrive in the conservation field. These initiatives and programs align with the demand of the National Strategy for Transformation (NST 1) and the Revised National Gender Policy which require all Sectors to promote gender equality and empowerment of girls and women in their respective mandates.

3. How do you ensure gender equality and inclusivity in decision-making processes related to conservation policies and practices in the country?

Gender equality and inclusivity are core principles guiding decision-making processes related to conservation policies and practices in Rwanda. The legal and policy framework of Rwanda provides a conducive environment for gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment as well as inclusivity in Rwanda. The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda in its article 56 considers the role of political institutions to ensure equality and complementarity of women and men and ensure that all people benefit equitably and their wellbeing is improved without discrimination. The Government ensures that women are represented in key decision-making bodies and have equal opportunities to participate in shaping conservation strategies. This is achieved through proactive measures such as gender-responsive budgeting, gender mainstreaming in policies, and targeted outreach campaigns to ensure the voices of women are heard and their specific concerns addressed.

4. Can you provide examples of successful conservation projects led by women in Rwanda and the impact they have had on biodiversity and sustainable development?

There are several successful conservation projects led by women in Rwanda that have made significant impacts on biodiversity and sustainable development. For example, initiatives focused on community-based conservation, ecotourism enterprises run by women’s groups, and agroforestry programs led by female farmers have yielded positive outcomes, including habitat restoration, wildlife protection, and improved livelihoods for local communities. For example, the Ministry through REMA, supported the Youth and women to carry out Environmental and Climate change friendly projects. This was done through a competitive process and the best projects were awarded. I can list some of the Girls and Women green awards by REMA through Poverty Environment Action for SDGs project, awarded in the range of 1M to 10M Frw in 2020 and 2022:

  • Production organic manure through waste
  • Transforming banana trunk into fibers sanitary pads and other materials
  • Recycling of plastic waste into tiles
  • Making furniture from old tiles
  • Making decoration items from plastic waste
  • Making decoration items from waste paper and old calendars
  • Making chairs from plastic bottles
  • In response to COVID-19 effects, the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the UNDP mobilized funds worth USD 1,500,000 for Rapid Financing Facility to implement a “Recovery for Youth and Women Enterprise projects” whose businesses have been affected by the pandemic. As a result, 108 youth and women cooperatives and companies were provided with financial support to build back their businesses. Beneficiaries from eight districts Bugesera, Burera, Musanze, Kamonyi, Nyabihu, Rubavu, Rulindo and Rwamagana Districts and the City of Kigali were trained to strengthen their capacity for successful implementation of their projects before districts disburse funds. These groups are now doing well in implementation of climate change adaptation and mitigation related activities.

5. In your opinion, what are the key challenges faced by women working in the conservation sector in Rwanda, and what steps are being taken to address these challenges and promote gender equality in this field?

Despite great achievements made in regard to women’s empowerment in the conservation sector, women still face a number of challenges. These include;

  •  limited access to resources, gender-based discrimination, and Conservative mind-set and lack/or limited knowledge on environmental and climate change;
  • The emissions generated from biomass combustion activities in households and institutions/commercial activities have gender and health related issues as they are linked to cooking mainly in rural areas. These expose especially the women to the indoor pollution. It was noted that most of rural women and girls are mainly responsible for the collection of fuel wood, water and other non-timber forest products among other issues.

To address these challenges and promote gender equality in the field, the Government is implementing targeted interventions such as capacity-building programs, mentorship opportunities, and advocacy for equal rights and opportunities for women in conservation.

6. Message to Women Environmentalists on IWD 2024?

To all the women environmentalists on this day, I extend my heartfelt appreciation for your dedication, passion, and tireless efforts in safeguarding our planet’s precious natural resources. Your role in conservation is indispensable, and your commitment inspires us all to work towards a more sustainable and equitable future for present and generations to come. Together, let us continue to advocate for gender equality, environmental protection and conservation, and collective action to address the pressing challenges facing our planet. Rwandans say the woman is the heart of the family, let’s be our planet’s heart and take care of our environment for a better and inclusive future for all.

Happy International Women’s Day!

END

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