Thanks in large part to Rwandan women enthusiastically pursuing higher education and leadership positions, Rwanda is rising out of poverty and experiencing an optimistic rebirth of a growing economy.
Education Results in Representation in Government
After decades of civil war, conflicts and genocidal tragedy in Rwanda, women became 70 percent of the population and actively rose toward education and leadership positions. Improvements in quality and opportunities within girls’ education in Rwanda make it possible for women to prepare for leadership positions, including in government.
Rwandan women now hold more seats in Parliament than Rwandan men. Rwanda’s Parliament consists of 106 seats (80 Lower Chamber and 26 Upper Chamber) and Rwandan women fill 59 of those seats (49 Lower Chamber and 10 Upper Chamber). Of all the Lower Chamber Parliaments in the world, Rwanda’s has the highest percentage of women (60 percent).
Girls’ Education in Rwanda Exceeds All Goals
Rwandans have been achieving universal education goals and even surpassing them. After Rwandans surpassed their 2015 goals outlined in the Millennium Development Goals program, UNICEF reported that Rwandan girls surpassed boys in school enrollment at all levels (girls at 98 percent and boys at 97 percent) and Rwanda’s total school enrollment rate is the highest in East Africa. With such determination in meeting its goals and effectively using foreign aid funds, current and future endeavors in Rwanda are full of hope for continued success.
One such endeavor began in June 2017, when Rwandans began utilizing Huguka Dukore, an education initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development. The goals include providing 40,000 Rwandan youths with job skills training by 2021. The training includes internships, job coaching, entrepreneurial development and access to financing and health services. The Education Development Center is managing the program.
Women and Girls in Rwanda Breaking Out of Traditional Gender Roles
Until the recent decades of drastic change in girls’ education in Rwanda after war and recovery, Rwanda functioned as a traditional patriarchal society. Young girls commonly bore children instead of staying in school and pursuing careers. Building confidence has been key in allowing girls to explore their potential beyond motherhood. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is one of the organizations working in Rwanda to build girls’ confidence and ensuring a path towards quality education and utilizing opportunities.
Before the recent drastic changes, men typically dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, while females stayed home in traditional gender roles, some marrying and having children at very young ages. The recent focus on girls’ education in Rwanda opened the way for girls to feel safe pursuing education and to realize they have multiple options beyond the traditional gender roles.
Now, more than half of Rwandan girls choose science classes. Some government-funded schools now specialize in STEM classes and encourage girls’ participation, such as Fawe Girls’ School in Kigali, Rwanda.
If the recent success of improving girls’ education in Rwanda is an indication of momentum for continued success, the 2021 goals of the Huguka Dukore initiative may be reached and surpassed, and girls may continue to freely explore their potential along with boys. The momentum is currently pointing towards continued education advancements, economic growth and reduction of poverty.
Furthermore, Rwandans are utilizing foreign assistance for education as it is intended–to progress towards eventually not needing foreign funding. While Rwandans do still need assistance, perhaps their track record of effective utilization of education funds will prompt continued funding. Hopefully, if Rwandans continue with their current successful momentum, they will choose to pay it forward when they become successful enough to provide funding and guidance to others in need of assistance.
– Emme Leigh