In support of the official 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) campaign that kicked off on November 25, with the global theme: From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World, Women Today's Doreen Umutesi talked to MP. Alphonsine Mukarugema, the President of the Rwanda Forum of Female Parliamentarians (FFRP) to find out the status of GBV in Rwanda.
"While we are advocating for the end of any injustices based on gender, I request all Rwandans to always respect each other's rights and report anyone in violation of those rights.
Women usually have the tendency of hiding the injustices imposed on them based on cultural barriers such as protecting and upholding family secrets, which is a woman's role despite the fact that they are being abused. This should stop if we are to deal with GBV and its related dangers," Mukarugema explains.
She said, "Rwandan women should know that they have rights like anyone else because human rights are for all. Therefore, any woman whose rights are abused in anyway, especially through GBV, should come out and report the matter. They should also know that there are laws that protect them from these kinds of injustices and should always refer to the law in cases where their rights have been violated," Mukarugema emphasises.
She adds that the Gender Based Violence law, land consolidation law, and family laws were all put in place in order to primarily address the injustices that women face because of their gender.
The 59-year-old Mukarugema was born in the current Muhanga District where she attended Mushishiro Primary school before going to Groupe Scolaire Notre Damme Lowdes Byimana. She ventured into teaching until war and genocide affected her stay in Rwanda. She pursued her Bachelor's Degree in Law at Kigali Independent University (ULK) in 2010.
"Our country signed several international agreements regarding promotion and protection of human rights to end injustices, and we have taken tremendous steps towards achieving this. The fight to end injustices is still on, that is why the 16-days-of-activism campaign is still very much in place. Rwanda aims at being a GBV free country," she expresses.
She also says that there are several institutions in the country that address GBV, for example the Gender Monitoring office, GBV one stop centres, the Human Rights commission and others.
"Rwandans are supposed to help anyone whose rights are being violated, they should make it their business to report any injustice witnessed. That way, social vices such as GBV will be completely uprooted," Mukamugema adds.
Having close to a 30-year-long teaching career in both primary and secondary levels, she says that she never thought she would join politics.
"All women in leadership positions should make it their initiative to advocate for women's rights. As a woman parliamentarian and as the president of FFRP, I aim at improving the welfare of Rwandans at every level," she says.
Besides being the President of FFRP, she is also the Chairperson of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, Rwanda, hence being at the forefront of advocating for maternal and child health care in Rwanda.
Mukarugema was in earlier times the Mayor of the current Muhanga District (from 1999 to 2001) and later became the first Mayor of Kamonyi District (from 2001 to 2003). It was after her term in office as the Mayor of Kamonyi District that she became a Member of Parliament, till today.