Gabriel Semasaka, you are a veterinarian and Deputy in the Rwandan Parliament and member of the Agriculture, Husbandry and Environment Commission, thank you very much for agreeing to answer a few questions for us
Which course did you take part in at the International Training Centre of the ILO? How did you learn about this course and what interested you in the topic?
At the International Training Centre of the ILO, I took part in a training course on “the comprehensive development agenda: tools for gender-sensitive planning and implementation” which took place between 21 May and 14 August 2009. I specifically looked in depth into its programme dealing with aspects of gender.
How did I hear about this course? It really was a fortunate coincidence. When I was browsing the internet for information on gender, I came across the ITC-ILO website for the first time while the advertisement for this course was still posted up. I immediately applied online. My application was accepted and the training was fully paid for by the EU/United Nations partnership.
The topic was of particular interest to me as I had just about spent seven months in a parliament with more than 56% women members and I also realised the importance of gender equality in the development and peaceful progress of our discussions, activities and fora. It was a unique opportunity of its kind for me to be able to deal with the issue. As a representative of the people, men and women, in-depth knowledge on the topic of “gender and development” would make me feel more comfortable when initiating, considering, revising and voting on laws concerning women.
To what extent has your training contributed to improving your performance (knowledge, skills and attitude)? In what way do you think that your training at the ITC-ILO has been an invaluable experience?
Quite honesty, through this training, I confess that I've learned a lot about the principle of equality, analysing gender in a development context, links between MDGs [Millenium Development Goals] and other universal declarations promoting gender, etc. A lot of things have since changed in me too. Effectively, as the course progressed, I quickly developed a better understanding of how important the principle of equality of the sexes is in the life of a family, a society and even a whole country. But more so, I appreciated the relevance of Rwanda's political decision to make gender a national priority across the board. I am now involved in getting to understand the issue of gender in the context of integration and no longer of discrimination between men and women.
In particular, this training at the ITC-ILO was a unique experience for me. I enjoyed the online exchanges of experience between participants in different continents so that, without being experts and without complexity or pretension, everyone could get new ideas through this form and at the same time share their own.
Has your institution benefited from this training? What changes have you noticed?
The Chamber of Deputies largely benefited from my training, both during and after. It was actually during this training that I made the decision to join the FFRP (Rwandan Female Parliamentarians’ Forum) as a partner member; its main mission since its creation in 1996 has been to fight for gender equality and to promote Rwandan women. My contribution to this forum goes beyond simply sharing knowledge with other deputies. Also, as part of the FFRP’s actual programme from December 2009 to March 2010, I went to the eleven most isolated administrative sectors in the provinces in the north and west to raise awareness among women and influential people in rural areas about laws that protect women. These are laws on violence against women, the law on the labour code, the law on inheritance rights, and the law on the management of land resources. Today, due to our joint efforts together, huge changes have taken place. Women no longer claim their rights, they exercise them fully.
Rwanda is one of the most advanced countries in terms of female representation in the decision-making administrative authorities: 55% of Rwandan deputies are women. The Rwandan constitution stipulates that 30% of posts in public institutions must be held by women. How do you explain this peculiarity?
It’s one of Rwanda’s peculiarities that the Rwandan population is majority female with more than 52% women and 32% of households are run by women. The government believes that no sustainable development is possible in Rwanda without the participation of a significant majority of the population. It is based on this principle that beyond its compliance with international legal instruments on respect for the rights of men and of women too, specific constitutional and legislative measures on equality between men and women have been taken and scrupulously complied with in Rwanda. And thus even in daily life here, women carry out activities traditionally known as men's activities and previously reserved exclusively for men such as building houses, shepherding, military service, etc.