Day three at the CSW event birthed discussions of widows all over the world who suffer from discrimination and exclusion. In some countries they are regarded as witches who brought about the deaths of their husbands. In other cases they, are ostracized or inherited by the relatives of their husbands in an attempt to prevent them from inheriting their husband land and property.
Didacienne Mukahabeshimana, ACORD Rwanda`s Gender Expert, shared her experiences on the resilience of women in Rwanda. Rwanda, she pointed out, is one of the countries in the world with a large number of widows following the 1994 genocide. However, she was quick to mention that widows were not only those women whose husbands had died but also women whose husbands had gone missing or where in prisons (as perpetrators of the genocide). All these women live in the same conditions and share the same experience of heading households.
Rwandan women in solidarity Rwandan women farming
Despite their plight, Didecienne, asserted that being a widow is not the end of the world. Rwandan widows have taken responsibility of their own lives and have made a difference in their society. They have constructed houses despite their cultural barriers which prohibit women from climbing rooftops; furthermore, they are entrepreneurs in their efforts to improve the livelihoods of their families. Some of these widows are among the 54% of women parliamentarians in Rwanda. Rwanda as a result is one of the first country's to have women as the majority in parliament. This presence has supported the formulation of laws that favor women e.g. inheritance, land right law, health insurance, education for all etc. All these inclusive laws allow women and men to access equitable land and public services. Presently, Rwanda is in the process of registering land to its rightful owners and the widows have a right to their husbands' land. To this effect ACORD is supporting women who are head of households, majority of then widows, in an attempt to register their land. ACORD is paying for the registration fees and in areas of land conflict; ACORD supports these women by engaging the services of a lawyer.
ACORD Team: Didacienne, Juliet Nakato, Mary Nzioki, Annette Msabeni, Salina Sanou.
Be sure to follow us tomorrow as we discuss more on the empowerment of rural women.