AFRICA · Rwanda
Quiet strength in the midst of tempest
The physical and moral misery, the desolation and isolation which characterized the victims of the 1994 genocide which also eliminated almost her entire family, including her husband, pushed Odette Kayirere to become one of the founders of the ‘Widows Association of the Agahozo Genocide’ (AVEGA in French), which grouped over 20,000 widows. Despite her own terrible loss, she rapidly organized small solidarity groups between widows. Very soon, she had the idea of creating AVEGA, of which she became the first organizer in her region. With the amount of work growing, she quit her job as a teacher to consecrate herself totally to this new activity, setting up mechanisms to offset the consequences of the genocide, especially in the fields of health care, housing, and means of subsistence. Presently the AVEGA section of the Eastern Region includes over 20’000 beneficiaries, widows and orphans, of which 90 per cent work in the fields of agriculture and livestock. Some are disabled; some still without a roof over their heads and live in total destitution. Among the numerous activities generated by this innovative and courageous Laureate, let us mention psychosocial counseling, the rehabilitation and construction of homes, income generating projects, health centers, community sensitization to problems of AIDS, violence against women and access to justice, support for education of orphans, environmental protection, to name but a few.
Rwanda, like other countries in the world, embarked on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), of which the third objective is “Gender Equality and empower women”. The Government of Rwanda created favorable conditions to promote gender equality, in the sense of putting in place laws that clearly specify equality between men and women. To this end, the constitution stipulates that all Rwandans are free at their birthday and remain so and equal according to their rights and obligations. Also, the Constitution underscores on the equality between men and women with an affirmative action to solve specific problems, such as representing women by 30% at decision-making positions.