Experts have warned that a large segment of the population in the country could be left behind in the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) if the government and civil society groups don’t strengthen collaborations and employ inclusive approaches.
In a meeting organised by Human Rights First Rwanda, which cantered on goal 16 of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, it was pointed out that there is a costly disconnect between the state and non-state actors and this hampers collaboration on key issues.
“Rwanda’s SDG performance will be reviewed in July 2018 but as it stands now many groups are not included,” said Louis Busingye, a co-ordinator at Human Rights First Rwanda.
He said some groups like people with disabilities, the LGBT community among others have not been sufficiently included in the SDG process and are struggling to locate where they belong in the framework.
Although some groups can find themselves in the 17 SDG’s, the lack of legislation and policy inclusion at the national level has sidelined them.
“Legally we don’t belong anywhere, there is no law talking about us or our issues, so how will our issues be addressed? asked Carter Honoree, a transgender man and member of the LGBT community working with Rights for all Rwanda
He said the lack of legislation not only excludes them from mainstream development but also leaves them vulnerable and unsafe at the hands of hostile cultures and a public that is largely uninformed about the LGBT community.
“There is a need to educate the public about the LGBT community to build partnerships but it all has to start with the government,” he said.
Although it is not illegal to be homosexual in Rwanda, the law is largely silent about the issue, which has exposed the LGBT community to discrimination.
It has been reported that many in the LGBT community who are HIV+ do not seek treatment, while others do not go for HIV testing because they fear mistreatment from the public or medics.
People living with disabilities have also faulted the government for excluding them, especially when it comes to access to education and health.
Many still face discrimination and prejudice while accessing services, which they say continue to marginalise them and it is likely to hinder them from achieving the SDG’s.
The visually impaired and deaf claim they have been locked out of the judicial system because they do not have lawyers trained in sign language and Braille.
“Some groups have been disenfranchised for a long time and they need to be helped so that they can make a meaningful contribution to development,” said Mr Busingye.
He added that because they lack capacity to perform certain key functions like fund raising or advocacy, they have had no option but to follow the agenda set by foreign organisations because they are the ones who provide the funding and this has not helped much.
“Governments are duty bound to include all groups of people at the design, implementation and monitoring of the development process but many do not have inclusive tools and sufficient skills to actualise this” said James Aniyamuzaala, a consultant and expert on disability rights.
Mr Aniyamuzaala said despite the central theme of the SDG’s being inclusive development, the methods in place are not inclusive and this could affect the targets.