2nd edition of the UN Women + FES Rwanda Gender Café. Theme :“Social Norms and Gender stereotypes: How can societies overcome them?”

The Gender Café is a dialogue platform about Gender related topics and is organized by UN Women Rwanda in partnership with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES Rwanda). After the official launch in October 2019, the first Gender Café 2020 with the topic “Social Norms and Gender stereotypes: How can societies overcome them?”


took place at FES Rwanda office in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District on February 27th, 2020.

The main speaker,the Gender and Development specialist Donnah Kamashazi, introduced the theme with a personal story by telling the audience, how she was negatively confronted with gender norms and stereotype: Few years ago, she was refused to ask a question in a male dominated conference. Taking this example, she encouraged the audience in not giving up and trying to overcome all forms of biased gender behaviour.

She explained that cultural norms are often based on traditional behaviour, because of a patriarchal mindset, and that they might become normal in societies over the centuries.

Donnah continued defining some key words like “Norms” as an act of setting boundaries of what a girl or a boy should do: She asked, why in a restaurant the bill is always given to the man?

In her point of view, Gender Norms are limiting the woman’s role in society: in almost all countries, gender issues still occurring and finding solutions is not always easy. She emphasized that all mindset modification must start somewhere, and she invited the audience starting with themselves today.

On the one hand, she raised examples from different countries, where gender inequality in schoolbooks is still a reality. Donnah also emphasised that social rules in East-Africa remaining (like that the father has given the first child a name, and not the mother nor both together and that often boys are not allowed to cry in public)

On the other hand, she underlined that gender norms are often global. In many countries, doing the same work but having different salaries is real for a lot of women and men. Some things are forbidden in some countries, just because of being a woman or a girl.

Often, all these norms are associated with socialization and how a society educates children (boys and girls) with focus on gender roles and responsibilities. Donnah also highlighted that other aspects (like religion) also have a role in reinforcing gender related norms.

During the following discussion, other issues have been emphasised and questions were raised like: Who is feeding Gender norms and Gender stereotypes? Who has incentives and who is benefiting from it? Who has the power to take decisions and to change them?

The audience concluded that often men are benefiting from gender related norms.

In discussing all aspects, some recommendations to overcome Gender stereotypes came up like;

  • Engaging more men in Gender dialogues.
  • Creating strong Gender alliances with partners sharing the same values (ex. among Rwandan NGOs but also with international actors like UN Women / FES etc.)
  • Improving awareness about the Gender related issues
  • Engaging Women to act
  • Using digitalization to support sustainable solutions
  • Advocating more at the policy level to overcome Gender stereotypes
  • Inspiring the younger generation by taking their views more into consideration
  • Elaborating more on the difference between Gender Equity and Gender Equality
  • Considering more Gender and disability together by fighting discrimination.

At the end of the discussion, UN Women emphasised that Gender Norms will be discussed during the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration

For guaranteeing peace and security, it remains important to include women in all form of dialogues and decision-making processes: legal policy and community action is still a concern within the SDGs and promoting gender equality is among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Encouraging informal discussions (like the Gender Café) and supporting each other by building partnerships would enhance gender related achievements. A mapping of Gender norms could help to better understand them, to better create strong alliances and to be more effective in acting and to overcome the Gender Gap. 

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