KIGALI, March 8 (Xinhua) -- The International Women's Day was marked Wednesday in Rwanda with a call to close the gender gap.
Speaking at the national celebrations in Nyabihu, in western Rwanda, First Lady Jeannette Kagame said national development cannot be achieved if the biggest percent of the population is excluded.
Women make up 52 percent of the about 12 million of Rwanda's population.
The First Lady observed that Rwandan women's capacity cannot be doubted because women are already key contributors in national development.
Rwandan women are in the public sector, been elected into leadership positions, in private sector business and in security organs, she said.
Up to 64 percent of Rwandan parliamentarians are women, highest proportion of any parliament in the world.
"As we celebrate International Women's Day, we also take the time to reflect and celebrate great achievements accomplished by Rwandan women. We remember the incredible strides that have made Rwanda one of the pioneers in championing efforts that promote and advocate causes for women and girls," the First Lady said.
International Women's Day is dedicated to the continued fight for gender parity and global celebration of the achievements of women in society.
Gender rights are enshrined in Rwanda's Constitution.
Mrs Kagame recalled that after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandan women were left to pick up the pieces left behind.
"Most found themselves as widows, having to assume the role as heads of households. A new responsibility arose, as women were not only taking up roles as heads of their households, but securing positions of leadership in the country," she said.
"Through years of hard work and dedication, women in Rwanda have helped the country cement its place in history as a country that not only takes pride but sets the standard in promoting and advocating women's causes."
Several activities are lined up across the country in March 2017, a month dedicated to further empowering women in Rwanda. The activities include family planning awareness, education, early childhood development initiatives and sanitation.
The First Lady meanwhile urged concerted efforts to check the problem of teenage pregnancies.
Pregnancy among teenage girls in Rwanda rose from 6.1 percent to 7.3 per cent, according to the demographic and health survey 2014/2015.
Mrs Kagame hailed development partners and government institutions involved in the promotion of women and girls empowerment.
The UN Resident Coordinator in Rwanda Lamin Manneh noted that though there is a lot to celebrate in Rwanda with regard to women empowerment there is still long way to go for the country to reach UN's Planet 50-50 goal.