4 April 2022
Rwanda is often remembered internationally for the genocide perpetrated on its territory in 1994. However, increasingly the country has been recognized within the African continent and the wider international community for a different reason: Rwanda has taken great lengths to address gender inequality and has recognized the need for women’s equal participation in decision-making to heal and rebuild their communities.
The Constitution of Rwanda sets gender equality as one of its pillars, and it established a 30 per cent quota for the number of women in parliament. As of October 2020, UN Women reported that Rwandan women occupy 61 per cent of the parliamentary seats, leading global figures for women’s participation in any country’s parliament. Along with governmental action, civil society groups have galvanized significant progress towards gender equality.
To support Rwandan gender equality efforts, the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP), ISOKO Partners for Peace and Gender Equality, Benimpuhwe, and Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC), launched the Young Women+ Leaders for Peace (YWL) program in Rwanda with a series of workshops and a virtual forum. The workshops in Kigali convened government officials and youth from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda from 9-11 September 2021. The workshops inaugurated the newest and tenth chapter of GNWP’s YWL network globally. The virtual forum, which took place from 8-10 January 2022, followed up on discussions from the launch activities while also encouraging government officials from the three countries to reaffirm their commitments toward gender equality and the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) in the Great Lakes Region region.
The Young Women+ Leaders program helps young women and gender equality allies gain the skills and confidence to become leaders in their communities. It raises awareness of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and Youth, Peace and Security agendas and enhances women and youth peacebuilding capacities to effectively advocate for the implementation of the WPS and YPS agendas at local, regional, national, and international levels.
Advancing regional peace and security priorities
The workshops in Kigali were an opportunity for 28participants from Burundi, DRC, and Rwanda to share their stories about advocating for the WPS and YPS agendas in the Great Lakes Region and increase their capacities as advocates. The participants discussed leadership skills, COVID-19 response, effective global advocacy campaigns.
“I am proud to be a young man in peacebuilding because I can lend my voice to young women and support gender equality through my commitments to peace.” – Young Women+ Leaders for Peace member from Rwanda
The session on gender equality facilitated by RWAMREC emphasized the importance of recognizing that gender equality is not only a women’s issue. It challenged people of all genders to engage with and advocate for the fight for gender equality in the Great Lakes Region. Questions such as “what makes you proud to be a man/woman?” or “what does not make you proud to be a man/woman?” were posed to the attendees. Members of the newly-formed Young Women+ Leaders for Peace network were encouraged to recognize and reflect on the ways that women and men can work together to fight for and achieve gender equality in the region.
Renewing commitments for gender equality
“Everyone can contribute [to the effective implementation of the policies.] We cannot reach the goals alone but together by joining efforts, we can.” -Concluding observation by break out group examining the Participation pillar of UN Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security
The January 2022 virtual forum saw over 30 participants from government and civil society come together to share their progress and reaffirm their commitment to gender equality in the Great Lakes Region. In the sessions, YWL members discussed their accomplishments since the official launch of the network and how they envision a gender-equitable and youth-inclusive future in the region.
YW+L members had the opportunity to hear about the work on WPS, YPS and gender equality in DRC from both civil society and government representatives. The newly-formed Congolese Coalition for YPS, which officially launched on 9 December 2021, shared its experiences on building a coalition and promoting youth inclusion in peacebuilding. The National Technical Secretariat for UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (STN-2250) also shared their ongoing work in the DRC on the development of the National Action Plan (NAP) on YPS.
Throughout the sessions, YWL members were able to share perspectives and recommendations about how young people can be included at all levels of peacebuilding. Some of their key recommendations were allocating core funding for youth organizations, raising youth awareness of the YPS resolutions, implementing intersectional approaches to peacebuilding in the Great Lakes Region, and holding governments and key stakeholders accountable for the full implementation of the YPS resolutions.
The workshops and virtual forum on the WPS and YPS resolutions in the Great Lakes Region were organized with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
For more information on GNWP’s Young Women+ Leaders for Peace program, please visit: gnwp.org/what-we-do/young-women-leaders-for-peace-program/
 Shayne Wong is the Youth Engagement Program Coordinator at ISOKO Partners for Peace and Gender Equality. She works on ISOKO’s Youth, Peace and Security policy and programming.
 Katrina Leclerc is the Director for Africa, Middle East & North Africa (MENA), and Latin America Programs and Communications at GNWP.