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Disrupting the Gender Status Quo

This success story written by Justin Kakumba a Gender activist ,is part of the "Young women and Youth's Gender Perspectives in Agricultural Development" series that spotlight young professionals' experiences for women's empowerment in agricultural development. From research to private sector, mass media to civil society work, YPARD 2015 Gender series features, every month, young "gender champions" from different regions of the world. This series is part of YPARD work as special youth catalyst in the GAP : Gender in Agriculture Partnership.

My name is Justin Kakumba Hagena and i am from Rwanda. I hold a bachelor's degree in Agriculture and Rural Development from the Univeristy of Rwanda and  I have eight years of experience working at Millenia 2015 (Women actors of development for global challenges) as a young volunteer who is passionate about gender-related issues. I mostly work with communities in the fight against gender-based violence and promoting positive masculinity.

Tracing my Gender Activism Roots

My interest in gender and women empowerment started way back in 2008 when I was in 5th Year of my Secondary education.  After graduation in 2010, I joined the University of Rwanda Faculty of Agriculture and rural development and its from here that I got interested in gender and agriculture especially  after getting involved at the Crop production department. This opened doors for me and In December of 2012, I was invited to UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris, to present my first paper entitled “The Empowerment of Women in Conflict Regions."

After graduation, i joined Digital Opportunity Trust as an Intern in May 2014 an opportunity that added a notch of skills and experiences. I enjoyed the climate of gender equality that DOT had developed as well as endless success stories from participants and other Interns. One of my major internship task was to implement the DOT's gender equality strategy which to date has resulted in the active participation of both men and women in Rwanda's economic development. My DOT Intern profile and gender equality-related experience acquired through DOT’s programs have much contributed to my success in different initiatives.

One month later, I represented Rwanda in a continent-wide business competition in Niger. I was among the top 25 finalists and I owe all the success to the business skills i gained working at  DOT’s especially the  Business Model Canvas tool which allows you to describe, design, challenge, invent and pivot your business model.

In addition, I wrote a paper on gender and education titled "Development of the Education System for Women’s Capacity Building "  which won a prize and facilitated my attending the World Congress 2014 of Global Partnership for Young Women in Seoul, South Korea. During the congress, i was given the honor of serving as the President of Student Organizing Committee a position I was granted after a speech calling people to consider women’s effort and potential.

Justin and other young people at the World Congress 2014

These efforts have culminated to my involvement with vulnerable women in East DRC where i help them start small businesses while at the same time advocate for possible support in their daily businesses. This is made possible through Millenia2015 , an NGO i founded and on which i serve as the chairperson of the whole Great Lakes Region.  Millenia 2015 aims at encouraging communities and people to say no to gender based violence in Eastern DRC.  At Millenia2015, i frequently analyse problems that face women who are victims of harmful traditional cultural beliefs, norms and any other kind of discrimination and has suggested solutions to those problems.

As an agriculturalist, I now  have a commitment of encouraging women to take advantage of what agriculture reserves to them. In April 25, 2015, I was at Namur University in a conference invited by Millennia2025, and there I addressed a speech to participants about the issue of gender-based violence. The invite also doubled up as a great opportunity  to meet Wallonia women agriculturalist chairlady in Namur.

Justin at Naimur, Belgium

My commitment is to help women doing agribusiness in East Congo especially in Goma through advocacy. It is always a privilege for me when an occasion is given and i never forget to speak out for rural women empowerment. When I say rural women,experienced people immediately understand that they are those women in agriculture related activities. My project therefore is to speak out and call other men to take part in this empowerment. I dream of an organization that would put together volunteer around the world to help vulnerable people and mostly women. Join our "Me and you for Them International” movement on Facebook.

Parting Shot!

Iam convinced that men should be engaged in reducing and preventing gender-based violence. Society is such that in some families, the man is the king and sets the rules and in most of cases, women are considered followers. In our current distribution of roles, some women are still marginalized. For example, cultural norms in Africa have meant that it is hard for many people to believe that a young man like me leads the world congress of young women. Their culture has convinced them that gender issues are women-only problems. However, the world's gender-based issues need the participation of both women and men because these are social issues, affecting everyone in the community. Gender equality is not a loss for men, but rather an enormously positive step towards enabling us all to live better lives.