1,500 Adventist women from 11 countries in the East-Central Africa Division are meeting this week at the National University of Rwanda.
Rwanda's First Lady opened the women's ministries congress on Wednesday. Jean Pierre Bucyensenge wrote this story, published in Rwanda's New Times:
Women should remain conscious of their great role in society and work hard to develop themselves, the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, has said. Mrs Kagame made the remarks yesterday while opening the Seventh Day Adventist Church International Women's Congress, in Huye District, Southern Province.
The First Lady also opened an exhibition featuring various handmade and artefact items, that seek to showcase women's achievements and encourage sharing of experiences.
The five-day congress, which will end on Sunday, attracted over 1,500 women delegates from 11 countries making up the East-Central Africa Division. It is held under the theme: "Chosen to Make a Difference."
"We have come together to begin a reflection process on how we, as women and young girls, can ignite the spark that will awaken the fire and untapped potential we carry in us. Indeed there must be something real, distinct and special about those that have been chosen to make a difference," Mrs Kagame told the gathering.
The First Lady told the women that "making a difference is a call to each and every one to live a legacy" and urged them not to lose the opportunity to bring about positive changes within their communities.
She also urged women to champion for six virtues that include Character, Humility, Obedience, Servanthood, Enlightenment and Nobility.
"We are slowly becoming conscious about the space we occupy [in society]. We've been given our place, but what are we going to do with it? How are we going to make a difference? It is one thing to have it and another to maximise it," she said, before adding: "I want you to think about what you are going to leave behind for the next generations."
In our culture women are considered the heart of home, she added, in apparent reference to the popular Kinyarwanda adage 'Umugore ni umutima w'urugo'.
"We nurture, inspire and encourage those around us and, whether we realise it or not, we set the foundation for character building. Apart from being the heart of a home, the society expects a lot from us as wives, mothers, sisters, professionals and individuals."
She told participants that the role of women is important yet complex and difficult to quantify.
"We have to compete with men out there in the workforce and at the same time assume our roles in the homes," the First Lady said.
Humble, but steadfast
Noting that "women are not human beings with superpowers," Mrs Kagame reminded the participants to always remember that there is a season and reason for everything.
She urged women to be humble but yet stand for what is right and use their positions for the greater good of humanity and their nations.
It is the first time that Rwanda is hosting the Seventh Day Adventist Church International Women's Congress.
Such meetings have previously taken placee in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, among other countries.
The objective of the congress is to awaken women, in general, and the Seventh Day Adventist women, in particular to always make a difference from the world around them and value a Christ-like identity, according to organisers.
During the meeting, participants will discuss various challenges facing women such as gender based violence and obstacles to socio-economic development.
Various speakers will address participants on emotional intelligence, how to live a purposeful life, among other topics related to the main theme.
An exhibition, highlighting women achievements in various domains, will also run during the course of the congress.
Some of the products on display include beans, bread and doughnuts, garments, juice making technology, decoration items, among others.
Participants came from Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, South Sudan and Rwanda.
According to Esron Byiringiro, the Rwanda Adventist Union president, the country was chosen to host the function because of its leadership vis-à-vis women empowerment and gender equality.
"We expect that by the time these women leave, there will be a difference. They will leave with a lot of valuable lessons," Byiringiro told The New Times.
In April, the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division held its Women's Ministries conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, with 3,000 women from 23 countries attending.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5439