Lessons from Rwanda: Female political representation and women's rights

Rwanda has made significant efforts to elevate the status of women in its post-genocide society. However, it is also important to recognise Parliament’s limitations in an increasingly authoritarian system of governance. While women members of Parliament have passed legislation to empower women in society, a lack of information and education prevents many from taking advantage of new opportunities. Yet Rwanda is clearly on the right path towards improving its gender parity and must uphold its efforts to do so, while prioritising formal education for girls and women at all levels.

As a consequence of the distorted gender ratio caused by the genocide, the implementation of the quota system and a governmental system that both appoints and supports highlevel female officials are essential to the rise of women leaders in Rwanda. However, gender equality at the societal level needs to be improved. Although the role of women is changing, their advancement into various sectors is still slow.

Land inheritance is one of the biggest threats to female empowerment. Women married in common law cannot inherit land. Yet in spite of these challenges, Rwanda remains a positive anomaly both on the continent and globally. This is especially true in light of the fact that many African societies still do not view women as leaders.

In Rwanda, the female majority in Parliament shows the country’s ability to accept change and promote gender policies. Moving forward, cultural boundaries to gender equality need to be overcome. This can be accomplished through relevant development initiatives such as education and increased access to information, including through the internet. Findings show that internet access in developing countries helps to empower women by providing them with skills, opportunities and a forum to raise grievances.

More effort also needs to be put into making sure that qualified women are afforded equal opportunities to hold high-profile jobs outside of Parliament. To achieve this, Rwanda will have to establish a constructive dialogue in society on gender equality issues.

Read the full report here.

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