The Rwandan genocide of 1994 sparked the beginning of female empowerment in Rwanda. After this tragedy, much of the population left in this East African country was made up of women. This enabled them to have a voice in the public sector of Rwanda, empowering all Rwandan women to take a stand for their nation.
Four Examples of Female Empowerment in Rwanda
- President Paul Kagame led the call for female empowerment in Rwanda. President Kagame realized that women would need to play a large role in Rwanda’s restoration. A new constitution was passed in 2003 which stated that 30 percent of parliamentary seats would be reserved for women. Girls’ education was also very much encouraged as well as women being appointed to leadership roles.
The president’s policies were welcomed by all Rwandans and quotas were met and surpassed extraordinarily. In the country’s 2003 election, 48 percent of parliamentary seats went to women; in the next election, 64 percent of seats went to women.
- Rwanda leads the world by having the most women in its national legislature. On this same scale, the U.S. ranks ninety-sixth with only 19 percent of its governmental seats held by women.
- Abishyizehamwe, in collaboration with the ActionAid Fund Leadership Opportunities for Women (FLOW), is a women’s smallholder farmers’ group formed in 2013 in order to mobilize women to learn and adopt sustainable agriculture practices. The organization opened an early childhood care center to provide women with the opportunity to spend less time caring for children and more time generating income for their families. FLOW and Abishyizehamwe have allowed Rwandan women to help support their families financially instead of just being an unpaid caretaker.
- Since 1997, Women for Women International has helped more than 76,000 Rwandan women become economically autonomous. The organization’s one-year program has allowed women to strengthen themselves as well as their country by gaining economic and social self-sufficieny. Through this program, women are able to succeed in anything from yogurt-making to brick-making to hospitality management. Women for Women International has allowed Rwandan women to go from being poverty-stricken to having voices in their country and making a real difference in rebuilding Rwanda.
Female empowerment in Rwanda has come a long way since the genocide in 1994, but it still has a long way to go. Women are now very prominent in the public sector, but it is important that they also gain autonomy in their private lives. Nations around the world should look to Rwanda as a prime example of how much women can accomplish when they are given the chance.
– Megan Maxwell