As Rwanda remembered the 20th anniversary of the horrifying genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda’s first lady—Jeanette Kagame—wrote a moving piece stating that women bore the heaviest burden of Rwanda’s history. However, modern Rwanda now leads the world’s revolution for female political representation.

Aloysia Inyumba, Rwanda’s former minister of gender reveals that “there is a general understanding and appreciation that if things are going to be better in Africa, women are going to have a key role.” Rwandan women played a crucial role in rebuilding the country after the war—many women were obligated to step up to assume the roles formerly occupied by men. Out of necessity, women found a venue to demonstrate their capabilities.

Women hold 51 out of 80 seats in the Rwandan Chamber of Deputies; that is 64 percent. Not only that, 24 seats in the Chamber are also reserved exclusively for women. The country now has more women in the parliament than any other country in the world. Furthermore, the Rwandan constitution also guarantees both genders no less than 30 percent representation in all decision-making bodies of the country.

What does a female majority parliament mean? It means that gender parity and women’s empowerment are prioritized on the national agenda. Rwanda legislated many laws aiming at empowering women and protecting their rights and interests. Gender violence, women’s health and choice, gender imparity and imbalance are all highly prioritized issues. Furthermore, the Rwandan political culture also favors female representation; as can be seen from the fact that the even more women have been elected than what the quota system guarantees.

Nevertheless, for many Rwandans there are still many areas that could still use some improvement. In public sectors, women hold only 15.7 percent of positions, 54.5 percent of all civil servants are still male and 36.8 percent of ministers are women. Furthermore, more girls and women in Rwanda still need to be enrolled in school. However, Connie Bwiza Sekamma, one of Rwanda’s female MPs, believes that female empowerment and equality can be brought about via the quantitative expansion of female representation. She believes that gender equality can then be attained once enough women have a chance to show their potential.

Nonetheless, Rwanda’s success in moving from the state in which it found itself in the 90s to a leading country in gender equality is an admirable achievement. The seriousness with which they endeavor to make this issue a national priority is certainly worth emulating.

-Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: Voice of America, Thomson Reuters Foundation , The New Times, Institue for Security Studies, NTV Kenya, The New York Times, Republic of Rwanda
Photo: Lateline