The New Times (Kigali)

2 March 2013

Rwanda: First Lady Pays Tribute to Profemme

First Lady Jeannette Kagame has praised Profemme Twese Hamwe, an umbrella organisation of women associations, which is aimed at elevating the status of women and the girl child in the country.

Mrs Kagame was speaking on Friday evening during celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the organisation which was formed in 1992 with a mission to contribute to the improvement of the status of women and promoting the culture of peace and capacity building of member associations.

"I thank you for empowering Rwandan women and enabling them to know their rights. Your works enabled your association to be recognised by winning various awards and prizes, but first I would like to recognise you for raising the status of Rwandan women," she told members of the association.

The First Lady commended the organisation for supporting government programmes in the promotion of gender equality and women's rights.

"Our peaceful society laid the foundation of hope which allowed Rwandan women to know their rights and play a key role in the fight against all forms of gender based violence," she said.

"When we look back, in 1992 when this association started, our country was full of troubles, instability and no peace at all. It was not easy for Profemme TweseHamwe to pursue her dreams, but now we can proudly say that you have done a great job."

For the past 20 years, Profemme has spearheaded the campaign to empower Rwandan women economically, socially and morally.

Mr Kagame recalled that the women's group started with 13 associations and has now grown to 58, an indication that the association has produced great results.

"As you celebrate this anniversary, you should take into account to build on what has been achieved and set more targets to accomplish more and fill the gaps where need be in the next 20 years," she told the gathering of women advocates in a gala dinner that also attracted government officials and civil society members at Lemigo Hotel in Kigali.

"Profemme TweseHamwe is where most women leaders in this country passed through, but the question remains; how can these leaders support the growth of this organization and allow affiliated associations to grow more and more in terms of thinking and capacity building to achieve further positive results?"

She urged the association to continue the proactive role to consolidate on the association's activities and add to its growth in terms of knowledge and skills as well as be one voice for other associations.

Mrs Kagame called on women groups to play a central figure in grooming children to be positive and fight against anything that may harm them in the society.

"We still have a long way to go to enable Rwandan women live in a peaceful atmosphere in their families and fight against all forms of gender discrimination. We should commit ourselves towards having peaceful families," she urged.

She also tasked women associations to find out whether or not domestic violence is on the rise in families, and find a sustainable solution to conflicts in families.

"When we look back where we have come from, we see there is where we can fasten our grip and change the women's mindsets and promote their development."

"We should be role models to our children through sharing our positive achievements and mentor them to be responsible citizens."

The First Lady pledged support to ProfemmeTwesehamwe to achieve their dream.

Since its inception, the organisation has been credited for playing a key role in the fight against all forms of gender-related discrimination in Rwanda.

According to Jeanne d'Arc Kanakuze, the President of the organisation, they have promoted the education of the girl child, empowered women socially and economically, and improved the wellbeing of families.

"I thank my colleagues in the association for staying on the right path despite the challenges we faced at the start," she said.

Kanakuze thanked the First Lady for honouring their invitation and supporting the activities of Profemme Twese Hamwe.

The association has won numerous awards like the 1996 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of tolerance and non-violence, first inaugural prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation for the Advancement of Women's Rights in 2003, the African Gender Award in 2007, and Women Information Network Award in 2011 among others.

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