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NYABIHU: Culture and negative masculinities, hindrances to women rights and values in the society

Nowadays Rwandan society faces problems of gender norms application, due to traditional culture which granted some rights to only men. Some women in Nyabihu District claimed that culture and social beliefs dictate that they should be subordinate to their husbands or other male relatives; and this makes females devalued within their homes.

Ephrem Kalisa with her wife have 3 children and live in Bigogwe Sector in Nyabihu District. He confirmed that Rwandan culture grant men opportunities to be stronger than women even regarding to what the Bible says. It teaches women to respect their husbands so, we deserve to be privileged.

He said: “Men are always the boss! I cannot be equal to my woman, I have to do hard works as I have forces and she does the easiest ones due to their bodies’ shaping.”; “No man in the kitchen, this is a work reserved for girls and women” he added.

Obviously this is tending to be part of negative masculinities, which pushes some husbands to become overconfident in front of their wives. And sometimes it deals with the Gender-Based Violence (GBV), when it is mainly applied in their households.

Otherwise, women have their views as Jacqueline Kankindi affirmed: “In Rwandan traditional culture women were assigned soft activities, whereas men are overcharged the hard ones within the society. From my point of view this was not fair! Biologically we have created differently so as to be collaborative ones others so, if I have a husband who is good at cooking and I am able to cultivate why can’t we share?”

Women in Bigogwe Sector, Photo by Nadine

RWAMREC (Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre) seeks to help men to understand that women can and should be empowered and if they have more power, this does not mean that men will be subordinated to their female counterparts.

How to uproot the GBV?

Before the genocide against Tutsi in 1994, women in Rwandan society were legally designated as minors and were not permitted to engage in economic transactions to control financial resources in home or to own or inherit land.

Anastasie Mukarwego, an old woman of 72 years said: “Traditionally we used to do unpaid care works as fetching water, washing, cooking and looking after our babies. No woman was allowed to go hunting for instance; hard workings were normally for men. And it was respected accordingly.”

According to RWAMREC view, male relatives and male spouses are often in control of the family finances and responsible for all major decisions affecting homes. These power imbalances inherent in traditional gender roles leave women particularly vulnerable to various forms of violence.

Though both a husband and a wife must be good seekers for their families’ development and welfare. “Each and every one has to positively change his/her mind analyzing the social identities; partners in a household should be both care givers and receivers. They can all, especially when they work together by collaborating. Men are required to get engaged in being humble towards their wives, in order to supplementary develop their homes” said Patrick Mico Ntunga (M&E officer in RWAMREC)

Patrick Mico Ntunga (M&E officer/RWAMREC) Photo by Nadine

He added that for uprooting the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Rwandan society, everyone’s role is needed starting in the members of the households; and in every sector of lives the perspective of gender issues should be equitably respected and applied.

All forms of abusing someone’s health depending to whom he or she is, and deprivation of certain rights are involved in GBV. And it has penalties set by the law No 59/ 2008 of 10/09/2008, on prevention and punishment of Gender-Based Violence.

Nadine Evelyne UMUBYEYI

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