Monday, February 11, 2013

New member, new post by Saara K.

Saara Kamal
Karongi District, Western Province

Hello all! Before you read what I have to say about Gender and Development I thought I would quickly introduce myself. My name is Saara Kamal. I am a teacher at TTC Rubengera in Karongi District in the Western Province. I teach fantastic upper secondary students. Unlike other Education Volunteers, I don’t teach English. I teach something called CPPE (Creative Performance and Physical Education). I have about 9 months left in my service and here are some ponderings for you to peruse…

What is it Simone de Beauvoir says, ‘One is not born, but becomes a woman.” That’s great for existential philosophers. But, I feel as if her perspective like so many others is skewed to the paradigm of what it means to be a “Western woman.” After being in Rwanda for about a year and a half, the term woman has a very different meaning, as a woman living here in Rwanda. Here, the inequality between the expected rights of women as Simone would believe, are so far from the reality. In Rwanda, it the responsibility of women to bear and raise children similar to the rest of the world. However, the difference that I see every day in Rwanda in terms of what it means to be a woman is the level of sacrifice that is expected.

Women in Rwanda aren’t expected to go to school and let alone succeed like their male colleagues. Women aren’t expected to become self-sufficient entrepreneurs of their own businesses without judgment from their fellow community members.  Women aren’t expected to refuse the sexual advances of a man without the assumption of some kind of consequence; be it societal or physical. These lowered expectations of women have now created such deep traces of a lowered sense of self-worth that the sacrifices of education and independence aren’t seen as a great loss, but as the norm. Very generally, being a woman in Rwanda includes maybe finishing a level of education (primary, secondary or university) and very soon afterward getting married. The scope of vision for women does not extend very far past their cultural expectations.

The reason why I became interested in GAD (Gender and Development) is based on this definition of what it means to be a woman in Rwanda. My goal for the foreseeable future is use the platform of GAD to expand and give more depth to the meaning of “woman” in Rwanda. I feel that the presence of GAD through Peace Corps Volunteers in our communities has the capacity to effect change in how women perceive themselves. The best way to way to learn something is to practice imitation. If we want women of Rwanda to be strong, we as fellow community members must set the precedent for how to conduct ourselves in a way that is an encouragement for other women to do as well. In addition to imitation and setting an example there must also be open dialogue about questions like, “What is gender?”, “What is development?” and “What does Gender Development look like in this context? In Rwanda?” Right now, I don’t have perfect answers to these questions. But hopefully soon, myself and other supporters of GAD will be on the right course to have tangible solutions the problem of how to promote gender development.

I am very excited by the things that have already been done in relation to Gender in Development in Rwanda (GLOW and BE camps in particular!) in the past three years and am even more excited about can happen in the future. Let’s be the change!     

1 comment:

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