In 2014, Martin Habinshuti founded KEEPCARE RWANDA, a nongovernmental organization with a mission to address gender-based violence (GBV), women’s empowerment, adolescents affected by HIV/AIDS and children with disabilities.
The slogan for KEEPCARE RWANDA is “Paving the Way for Girls.” When asked about the philosophy behind the saying, Martin shared that he chose the forward-looking slogan because of his childhood experiences and memories with his mother. “My mother always took time to care about my siblings and me. However, she faced many challenges, including gender inequality, lack of education and no property. I wanted to create an organization which could contribute to removing all kinds of barriers faced by women and ensure that they have equal rights and opportunities in all sectors: education, business and politics.”
As a man advocating for women’s empowerment, Martin is aware of how important it is for men and boys to be engaged and supportive of women’s rights. “Gender equality cannot be achieved without the involvement of men and boys. They must abandon harmful stereotypes, embrace respectful, healthy relationships, and support all people’s human rights, everywhere. The involvement of men and boys in women’s transformative projects is not a favor. However, they benefit from it. When a woman is empowered by her family and society, the economy increases, and the lifestyle at home may be improved.”
Martin has learned valuable lessons as he gained more knowledge over time as CEO and coordinator of KEEPCARE RWANDA. Martin notes that at the start of his organization, he didn’t fully understand the concept of gender equality. He knew he wanted to contribute to a society free of GBV and support equal rights and opportunities for women, but it took dedication and study to make progress on these goals. “I increased my skills and knowledge on program designing, human resource management, community development processes, leadership and challenges hindering women and girls’ education. I also learned skills on monitoring and evaluation, proposal writing and fundraising.”
Martin shared a few words of wisdom for YALI Network members interested in women’s rights:
- “Women’s rights do not mean women up and men down. Both women and men benefit from equality and equity.”
- “The sector of women’s rights is susceptible to society, politics and religion. There are some strong barriers like laws, policies and religious doctrines that hinder women from thoroughly enjoying their rights. Focus on empowering women and breaking those norms by increasing the representation of women in leadership roles.”
- “The process of behavior change is a journey. You should not be disappointed in one or two years if you do not see immediate results.”
“The most important lesson I learned is that ‘women can do it.’ Women are powerful.”
Martin Habinshuti has over a decade of experience in gender transformative programs, specifically focused on gender equality and women’s rights. He holds a master’s degree in public health from Mount Kenya University and a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from the National University of Rwanda. Martin is a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow who participated in civic education and leadership at Kansas State University.
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The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.