The interventions that took place last year 2018 in the districts of Kicukiro, Gasabo, Nyarugene and Bugesera aimed at Engaging Religious leaders in fighting Gender Based Violence and family conflict.
In his opening remarks Mr. Innocent Musore GER Executive Director reminded religious leaders that they are very important partners in building the desired Rwandan society. The main intention for the training was to call upon religious leaders to take part in fighting against GBV and to care for the victims and encourage positive masculinity.
The consultative meeting was organized by GER in collaboration with religious leaders on district level, the focus was to discuss and have a common understanding on the issue of GBV and family conflicts.
Religious leaders reflected on misinterpretation of some verse in Bible and Quran which becomes a driving factor of GBV and family conflicts. “But the scriptures were written to guide and correct mankind in doing what is right by obeying and completing each other by both men and women.”
It was mentioned that religious leaders are most important partners in the process of changing people’s mindsets and fighting GBV and discrimination on high-risk people of HIV, Drug abuse and teenage pregnancy.
“Among the religious leaders responsibilities include fighting against GBV and conflicts in their respective religions and community in general.” Said Rev. Mukiza, the representative of religious leaders in Kicukiro.
In group discussions, participants discussed on the trust they have within the community and how it can be used in dealing with outstanding issues of youth drug abuse, teenage pregnancy which is currently a big concern in Rwandan society, GBV, family conflict and child right abuse in the programs of peace building, conflict resolution and poverty reduction. They also discussed on their role in caring for the victims of GBV.
On this Rev Bafana said that it’s not right to miscommunicate the victims like when the victim is impregnated during the process of GBV but should be given love and care, as it’s only God to judge as in the scriptures Gen 4:12-15.
He also reminded them that doing all this would not be an option but a command. He continued by explaining that Gender as someone is born male or female, does not permit anyone to be oppressed, or be given specific roles like in our African society, where some activities are regarded as a core for only females, yet the worldwide majority of both genders can do them, which proves that both females and males are equally able.
Rev. Bafana continues to elaborate on how GBV is more rampant in Africa than the rest of the world. He gave an example of DRC and Tanzania where impregnated girls are the only ones sent out of schools, yet the responsible impregnator (men and boys) are left to continue their work.
He continued to show the different types of GBV, like where woman comes home tired but is expected to work home like preparing food, and the man even goes ahead to abuse her, despising the food, there are also some men who don’t give money to their families for food and go ahead to eat in bars and restaurants, and others who don’t have time for their wives and children, but spend most of their time in bars with fellows, while other men take their women as property because they paid the bride price and forget that there is no price to buy a person.
Churches and mosque, majority of the congregation are women, yet they never lead, “Prayers without action is dead” said Rev. Bafana, so he calls upon religious leaders to fight GBV and reach out to comfort the victims of GBV, seek their justice and never cease to teach the wrong doers and teach to live a life of positive masculinity as Ephesians 2:25-28, 5:22-23.
“People listen to you, love and respect you so that the political leaders wish they were religious leaders” and so encouraged them to use such an opportunity have. To use scriptures as they are written, not as one wants. Genesis 2:1. “Some religious leader use scriptures for their personal interests like you find one emphasizing that women submit to their husbands.”
The story of the Samaritan woman, preachers never mention her names, but only talks on her poor behavior of having many men, yet she was the first evangelist though she was a sinner she still needed God’s grace and was forgiven. Here he said that people can change, societies change, like Africans no longer put on hides. The S. Africans have a sayingthat “people are people for people” “it’s through people that others live, so let all men and women together live for each other” He concluded.
How to live a positive masculinity life with different faith and beliefs?
The house of worship, holy place are the places where people should find peace, love and protection.
- When someone sins, they run to church and mosque, as leaders we should restore themwith love so as to help them change for better.
- They need someone to listen to them, strengthen them and tell them that though the situation is the way it is, but still God loves them.
- As religious leaders, we are the salt and the light of the earth, our country need us, the women and the young girls need your protection, they are the mothers of the future leaders.
The speaker first asked what people understand of GBV, she said that mostly it is women and girls that suffer more from GBV than men, they are the ones to suffer the consequences; they are the ones to get the unwanted pregnancies, the ones to be chased out of schools, miss-communicated from places of worship and so on.
During the presentation of groups discussions people have shared ideas that show some forms of GBV in Rwandan culture; the example was a homegrown proverb saying that “where a woman leads war breaks” (Urugo ruvuze umugore, ruvuga umuhoro”.
“Speaking out, against GBV, use the word of God. Create a specific commission in the church or mosque that know the different forms of GBV in their respective societies, for some of the forms are not visible like abuse based on faith, where before getting a job one has to have sex with the employer. Some religious leaders rape girls and women in the name of deliverance, and there are many children who do not know their biological parents and so on.
The religious leaders were interested in the forum and said that it was the time to change and work together to fight against gender based violence, starting from the faith-based organizations. As most of the population are religious followers in Rwanda, this shows how much the citizens trust be the leaders of these faith based organizations. According to testimonies and information on gender based violence given by the members of religious leaders, it shows that they trust them enough to be able to change their mindsets. Participants mentioned that the reporting of GBV cases is still a problem that they have to deal with through prayers and silencing it can be a driving factor.
As a lesson learned during the interventions with religious leaders, they show the willingness to support the gender promotion and positive masculinity in their working settings and they accepted that there are false understandings about gender that need to be addressed, which will help in the promotion of social justice, human rights, reproductive health education, fight stigma discrimination for high risk people with HIV, and GBV effects as well as child welfare through the promotion of child rights. As religious leaders committed to playing a positive role as change makers in their communities and organizations, it is of a priceless value as they will contribute to the informed society.
We would like to invite partners to support this program to support this initiative