Rutsiro District, Western Province
When Peace Corps Volunteers first enter their country of service, they are required to go through about three months of training before they are placed at a site as an official volunteer. The teachers who are in charge of getting us from trainees to volunteers are called Language and Cultural Facilitators, or consistent with the Peace Corps' love of acronyms, LCFs. They are all host county nationals, and the majority of them are women. LCFs are some of the first Rwandans trainees meet, and some of the strongest women we encounter in the country. Many LCFs leave their families for six months out of the year to teach rigorous language classes, everything about culture, and to make sure everyone is back with their host families by 6:30 every night. The last one is certainly a herculean task, since trainees are all over 20 and have been living without a curfew for years. Our LCFs in Rwanda are open, engaging, funny, caring, and independent. By interacting with future volunteers and sharing their knowledge, they are at the forefront of the gender and development changes that are happening in Rwanda. For this post, three LCFs have kindly answered some questions about gender equality in their home country.
From Huye District, Southern Province
LCF for 5 years
|MUKESHIMANA Stella Matutina|
From Nyamagabe District, Southern Province
LCF for 6 years
Not Pictured: TUYISHIME Zilpah
From Rubavu District, Western Province
LCF for 7 years
What woman do you admire most? Why?
Geraldine: Jannette Kagame, [the President of Rwanda's wife] because of how she promoted the Rwandan girls education. I like also the way she really represents a Rwandan woman and the way she dresses.
Stella: Jeannette Kagame, because of her commitment to empower women especially in education.
Zilpah: My mother is the one I admire most. She’s so courageous and she encouraged my siblings and me to go to school and work hard. She knew the importance.
What positive changes in gender equality have you noticed in Rwanda in the past 10 years?
Geraldine: In the past ten years, I noticed the changes in executive positions, for example in parliament more than 50% are women. Girl’s education is promoted, especially in secondary schools.
Stella: Women are contributing to Rwandan development at a considerable level. The number of girls attending schools is increasing, Rwanda's empowerment for women is remarkable.
Zilpah: I noticed positive changes in education, executive positions, and in decision making.
What are some challenges Rwanda still faces regarding gender equality?
Geraldine: Rwanda still faces the challenge of changing the minds of people. In Rwanda, to promote women is to change the culture and some women still feel weak in front of men. They need to build their confidence.
Stella: The lack of confidence in women is still observable, some men and women are resistant to gender equality, and the misunderstanding of gender equality in both men and women can lead to violence from both sexes.
Zilpah: There is still a certain nasty mindset that to educate children and do household activities is a women’s business.
What are some challenges you face?
Geraldine: It is a challenge to work in a country like Rwanda which is in transition from traditional culture to modernization.
Stella: Let me say that the first challenge I face is related to giving my opinion! However, I have to be who I am!
Zilpah: To make Rwandans understand that no one is getting the upper hand in gender equality, that everyone is equal to the other one. This is the challenge I may face.
What, if anything, have you learned about gender equality from Peace Corps Volunteers?
Geraldine: I’ve learned a lot from married couples by seeing a husband who is more active than his wife, like in cooking, washing dishes, etc.
Stella: First, Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps in general, helped me to discover and to accept who I am. Competition, creativity and commitment exist in both women and men; valuing this leads to success. There are no tasks just for women or just for men, we are equal and we can do what we WANT to do and BE WHO WE WANT TO BE regardless our gender.
Zilpah: Respect. Everyone feels responsible and able to mutually help each other, especially married couples.
Finish this sentence: I believe we will have gender equality when...
Geraldine: The mind of Rwandans will change in both men and women.
Stella: Both women and men accept that there is no weak person, but a weak mind!
Zilpah: Everyone will make it priority number one.
LCF Photo Credit: Mario Amaya-Velazquez