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Rwanda hosts 3rd MenEngage Alliance Global Symposium

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Rwanda this month launched the third MenEngage Alliance Global Symposium, which started with an opening session that was held in Kigali between November 10 and 12.

Following the launch, virtual discussions will continue for the next seven months with an aim of creating space for listening, critical reflection, and commitment to action across work to transform masculinity and engage men and boys for gender equality and social justice.

The sessions will be held under the theme “Ubuntu” translated as “humanity towards others” or “I am because you are” speaks of the universal connection between every person.

“HDI is pleased to be part of the ongoing discussions that challenge reflections on how to work to engage men and boys and transform patriarchal masculinities into achieving gender and social justice for all,” reads part of a statement from HDI, a local NGO that works to boost healthy living in Rwanda.

In her speech during the launch, Marie-Ange Uwase, the chair of MenEngage Rwanda and HDI’s director for the center and human rights appreciated the dedicated team that worked tirelessly despite the disruption of Covid-19 and made it happen. 

The virtual sessions will be formed of a series of activities, discussions, and opportunities to continue the advancement of gender equality.

She shared some highlights about the Rwanda MenEngage Network-RWAMNET that was established in November 2008 to effectively engage men and boys to curb gender-based violence in Rwanda. 

The network is currently chaired by Health Development Initiative (HDI), with Rural Development Initiative (RDI) as the Vice-Chair and RWAMREC as the secretariat.

RWAMNET is currently composed of 26 member organizations and its thematic areas of focus include sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS, gender-based violence, gender justice, child rights, and gender equality, among others. 

By coming together from across regions, cultures, backgrounds, and languages, Men Engage Alliance global members aspire to help make ‘men and masculinities’ work more effective and accountable for women’s rights, economic justice, and other social justice issues.

Uwase pointed out that some of the milestones of the network include conducting community outreach and intergenerational dialogues aiming to achieve family promotion, government institutions mainstreaming MenEngage activities in its projects, advocacy to expand access to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services, and information, celebrating international men’s and women’ s day, and hosting the 3rd Global MenEngage Symposium.

“I believe the theme for this year’s Symposium “Ubuntu” is so appropriate. At the heart of each definition of Ubuntu in different places, is the connectedness that exists or should exist between people. Ubuntu reflects the understanding of the essence of Humanity,” Uwase stated.

She called upon everyone to continue to demonstrate the spirit of cooperation that has always guided them to continue to address the persistent issues that have weakened the society and burdened the nation.

While opening the symposium, the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Jeannette Bayisenge said that the mindset is changing step-by-step as men are in support of the progress of women, especially in development.

“Everyone should understand that it is the responsibility of men and young men to support one another. For instance, helping out on duties that are typically for women,” she stressed. 

The minister is also anticipating that the participation of different stakeholders will provide great insights on how to further strengthen gender-based violence prevention and gender equality promotion mechanisms to ensure full participation of men and women, girls and boys in the country’s development.

According to Fidele Rutayisire, the executive director of the Rwanda Men’s Resource Center (RWAMREC), although there is still a problem of abusing women sexually, some men are reforming slowly.  

He added that there is no doubt that men will change for the better because there are policies not yet enforced. Men can reform regarding many issues, including politics.

“We plan to increase our actions toward men. Those we have reached out to, are relatively few, however, they are more than 30,000. There has been a positive change; 55% of them are changing from sexual abuse. The journey is still long, but we shall reach our goal,” he explained.

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