A woman and a man who just got married in Rwanda. Source: BBC NEWS

Growing up as a black female came with a particular type of awareness. A realization that women have to fight to be recognized understood and saluted. And this calls for feminism; feminism has long been regarded as a controversial subject to discuss; some people view it as a threat. Others have accepted the current regime and do not see the need to update or learn what feminism genuinely entails. Feminism is about altering how the world perceives women’s power, not about making them more vigorous because they already are. Rwanda has achieved what seems impossible on other continents. For instance, 61 percent of the members of parliament are women in Rwanda, which is almost twice as many as in Germany ( Goethe-Institut, 2021). Nonetheless, additional efforts to empower women are required because we cannot discuss feminism without including women’s empowerment. Women empowerment is defined as fostering women’s self-esteem, ability to make their own decisions, and right to drive societal change for themselves and others (World Vision, 2021). Many people in Rwanda believe that being a woman has significance only after being married and granted, and it is indeed a beautiful thing to have in life. In any case, it should not be the sole criterion for a woman’s success or the only means to live a happy and satisfying life.

Marriage should not determine a woman’s worth.

For most Rwandan young women, getting married is the ultimate goal ( Cyubahiro, 2021). Many young girls are socialized to believe that marriage is the ultimate goal. A 30-year-old woman, for example, is expected to be happily married with children, and if her husband desires that she become a housewife, she must do so; only then will she be regarded as a successful lady by society and, more importantly, by her family. From a small girl to a grown-old lady, all of them were or are obliged to live up to people’s expectations, which leads to ongoing doubts about whether they are good enough. Females have been socialized to believe that it is acceptable to forego a profession, but it is not permitted to withhold a married life, which is not the case. It is vital to teaching girls that this is just a part of life, that they can choose whether or not to have it in their lives, and that they should not judge their worth based on it.

Rwandan students while at their campus at the University of Rwanda. Source: University of Rwanda 

According to the University of Rwanda Statistics Office, approximately 34% of its undergraduate and graduate students are female (University of Rwanda, 2021). If you talk to most Rwandan old, that is to say between 45-60years aging parents; career is not something they bring up their children, training them to value. Girls were taught to shrink themselves and let their brothers have it all. Moreover, it has been normalized to the point that some girls themselves feel like it is the way it should be. As Chimamanda Ngozi quoted in one of her speeches about feminism, “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller, we say to girls, You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful; otherwise, you would threaten the man.” What this did to women is to feel that it is okay to settle for less and that they have a tiny place in this world, and this sabotaged women’s self-esteem big time, and this is not something that will take just a few years to build.

A picture of a woman while at work being facilitated by a man. Source: FAWE Rwanda

Finding a job is far more difficult for women than for males worldwide (International Labour Organization, 2021). When women are working, they are more likely to labor in low-paying jobs in dangerous environments, with little hope of improvement soon. In Rwanda, women have a high jobless rate of 17.1 percent (Ntirenganya, 2019). For a long time, women have not maintained track of their careers. Women modify their jobs for family life more than men. Taking the initiative to follow one’s passion and develop a career life requires a great deal of bravery on a woman. Also, when women put themselves out there and dare to break new ground, they face a slew of other issues. Some include sexual and verbal abuse because they are not perceived as professionals but as people in places they are not supposed to be. In the community, a lady who took a different path and dedicated herself to succeeding in her profession, taking control of her future, and settling down on her own without a man’s support, was considered a masquerade. Her ambitions and desires were considered entirely illogical.

Women deserve better!

In 2015, 35 percent of Rwandan women had married formally, and another 17 percent had married informally before the age of 21 (Twahirwa, 2016). It is high time that women stop settling for the normal and let the marriage be their number one measure of their worth because they were born to stand out and unleash the inner potential within themselves. Because women are as capable as men and women’s success should not depend on the success of their marriage or whether they are capable of giving birth or not. Every woman, just like any other individual, has their definition of success. Every female should clearly define what is success to them and live up to that. Women should recognize and celebrate their wins rather than sit down and wait on the world to approve and celebrate. Because all this waiting for the world’s approval makes the whole womanhood experience seem so depressing, only you should be able to sit down and say that I made it. Women should put themselves out there and dare to blaze the trail because that is how you grow. Most breakthroughs happen when you push yourself to do something even though you are unsure of it, boosting your confidence.

In conclusion, Rwandans, Africans, and the rest of the world should recognize that every woman has the right to define success on her terms. And she should attain that success according to her own set of criteria and design a life that she is proud of, not one that society expects her to live. As black women, we must acknowledge that we can challenge societal norms that set us back, set new standards for ourselves, and assist others who will come after us. We can do anything and everything we set our minds to by being ourselves. Our authenticity defines us. We must ensure that we leave a legacy and provide a safe space for the next generation of black females to grow and develop.


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