Africa: Tower of Light – Rwanda’s Historic Odyssey as Africa’s First Host of Women Deliver Conference

In the heart of Kigali, Rwanda, history unfolded as the vibrant city played host to the Women Deliver Conference–the first of its kind in Africa. Beyond mere symbolism, this groundbreaking event marked a seismic shift in the pursuit of gender justice and women’s empowerment.

Like a beacon of light amidst darkness, Rwanda’s unwavering commitment to equality and progress has positioned it as an exemplar for the world. The Women Deliver Conference disseminates its illuminating message across the African continent and beyond, finding its perfect dwelling place in Rwanda–a nation that has transcended adversity and emerged as a guiding force for the future.

Just as a football World Cup host country is chosen based on its ability to provide a stellar stage, Rwanda’s selection as the first African host for the Women Deliver Conference is a testament to its remarkable progress in gender equality. This great nation, reborn from the ashes of tragedy, has emerged as a global leader in women’s empowerment. Rwanda’s policies and implementation shine as bright as the African sun, ensuring that the flame of gender justice burns perpetually.

As the world gazes upon Rwanda’s accomplishments, the story of women’s empowerment finds a fount of wisdom from which to draw inspiration. In the words of President Paul Kagame, “Our history as a nation has shown us that change does not happen overnight, but with commitment, solidarity, and sustained effort, we can achieve gender equality.” The message is clear, and the story of Rwanda offers insightful lessons to the women’s empowerment revolution. Equally so, as the African hotspot, Rwanda has captured global attention, making it easier to carry the message from Rwanda to the world.

In a momentous display of unity, the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali saw women from diverse backgrounds coming together with a shared vision of a future anchored in equality, equity, and gender parity. Gone are the days of women fighting amongst themselves; a mighty force now stands strong, not asking who is better but striving for collective betterment.

First Ladies, students, businesswomen, government officials, educators, mothers, etc., hand in hand, weave a tapestry of progress. From the grand halls of power to humble village dwellings, the clarion call for justice resonates, as every woman holds her own bag, knowing that the future belongs to them all. Injustice has been hiding in division, but with this approach, injustice is starting to pack its bags as women are clear that wherever they are, the message is the same: “Equality, equity, and parity.”

What captures my attention about this unity of women and their message is that they are not just saying, “do this and that for us or to us,” but their request is participatory; they want to participate in bringing equality. They are clear that “anything about women, without them at the center of decision-making and the implementation of those decisions, is not for them.” To deny them participation is to deny our development.

In this transformative narrative, the presence of men at the Women Deliver Conference takes center stage, redefining the conversation on gender equality. Like celestial stars illuminating the night sky, these male allies illuminate the path towards a brighter, more equitable future. Inspired speeches from influential figures, including President Kagame, reveal the urgency to hasten progress towards gender parity, arguing that at the present rate, it may take more than a century for women’s empowerment to reach its full potential. Hence, there is a need to speed up, and his government has taken notable steps in doing so. Rwanda’s government sets a glowing example of commitment to gender equality, paving the way for a society that thrives on inclusive participation.

African history tells tales of women who, despite confined paths, etched their names in the annals of greatness. From the gallant Dahomey women warriors in West Africa to the indomitable Mama Winnie Mandela, who stood as an unwavering beacon of hope in the struggle against apartheid, these extraordinary women inspire us to seize the moment and create a new narrative. History may have withheld their rightful platforms, but the present proclaims a call to action–to amplify their voices and magnify their impact. We are reminded of the words of Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, who, while addressing thousands of women, moved from the point that “the revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women. The night of August gave birth to an achievement of freedom, honor, dignity, and happiness, but this was selfish happiness, for something crucial was missing: women. She has been excluded from the joyful procession. Though men had reached the edges of the great garden of revolution, women were still confined within the shadows of anonymity. He further charged that nothing whole, definitive, or lasting could be accomplished in Burkina Faso as long as women are kept in a condition of subjugation, a condition imposed over centuries by various systems of exploitation.”