(The following blog post is written by Mallory Minter, IPHR's first international intern.)
In addition to touring Butare’s tribunal and police station this past week, I also attended a two-day workshop for vulnerable women.
First things first – let’s define “vulnerable women”. IPHR uses this term to identify women who are single mothers, who are impoverished, who self-identify as depressed, and/or who simply have no family or close community to turn to. Metaphorically speaking, these women are swimming across the Atlantic Ocean with only one arm.
This workshop, led by IPHR’s Yves and run in partnership with the Igiti Cy’ubugingo Center (the name roughly translates to “Tree of Hope”), seeks to educate women of their rights as they relate to family law, gender-based violence, and succession (aka – inheritance).
For example, suppose you are a Rwandan woman. You are one of 10 daughters and your parents have died. According to Rwandan law, your parents’ assets will be split among all 10 daughters evenly, unless there is written documentation expressing otherwise. However, one of your sisters forges a document stating that the parents have selected her as the sole inheritor of their possessions. The court accepts this document and you no longer have the right to any of your inheritance. You are left with nothing from your family.
This is the reality of one of the women who attended the workshop this past week.
By teaching women about their legal/equal rights concerning issues such as marriage and inheritance, this workshop serves to empower women like this one.
Furthermore, considering the fact that women in Rwanda only recently gained the legal right to inheritance in November 1999, many women are still unaware of what is legally entitled to them. Education initiatives like this workshop are critical to closing the human rights gap currently lying between both genders in Rwanda.
The ultimate goal of this conference is to break the silence. In fact, at the end of the first day of this two-day workshop, Yves urged the women to speak out and spread the word.
As Yves clearly stated (in Kinyarwanda – so I’m paraphrasing here): education is the strongest force to fight gender-based violence and is the only way to ensure that women fully exercise their equal rights.
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