The meaning of human rights for women working in the Rwandan health sector

Monday, March 8 marked the celebration of International Women’s Day, a global tribute to the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In this guest post, Dr. Agnès Binagwaho, Permanent Secretary of Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, reflects on the human rights of women in Rwanda.

Sixteen years ago, during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, perpetrated by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and the Hutu moderates, where one million people were killed — more than one tenth of the Rwandan population — women’s rights were profoundly denied, as many of our mothers, sisters, and girls endured systematic massive rape that resulted, often intentionally, in the devastating effects of a slow death by HIV/AIDS infection. During that time the country was destroyed, its health system ceasing to function as health professionals were killed or left the country and infrastructure and materials were destroyed. As this week we celebrated International Women’s Day 2010, I salute the fact that rape as a weapon of war has been recognized as a crime against humanity.

Times have changed in Rwanda. Thanks to the new leadership since 1994, most of the population thinks “out of the box,” with a strong belief that there is always a solution if we work hard to find it and if we search for solutions within our culture and within ourselves. In this short essay, I would like to share how the situation during the time of the genocide has been reversed to favor women rights and how it impacts my work.

Click here to continue reading Agnès Binagwaho’s piece, “What do human rights mean for a working woman in the Rwandan health sector? Reflections on International Women’s Day.”