KIGALI, Rwanda — The Rwandan Women Parliamentarians make up a large part of that legislative body in their developing country. Rwanda is the 22nd poorest country in the world; being landlocked and resource-poor, it is not surprising that it remains among the poorest.
Rwanda has had a violent, disturbing and grueling past. In 1994, the Rwandan genocide led to the deaths of about one million people and the creation of about 800,000 refugees. This, in conjunction with its lack of resources and locus in the world, are contributions to its state of poverty.
The genocide led to women taking up many of the traditional male roles within society. Considering that many men were killed during this period the demographic structure of the country since then changed and now women make up about 54 percent of the Rwandan population.
At present, what makes Rwanda truly remarkable is the fact that the country has 64 percent women Parliamentarians. This is the highest proportion of women in any parliament in the world.
In relation to women’s rights, there has been a progression from women being raped and abused with impunity in the past; to present times where gender rights have been enshrined in the constitution. In order to further support the fight against gender-based violence, one stop centers are being rolled out, while billboards have been put up to fight against this violence. In a government, whose own figures showed in 2010 that, “two in five women reported being physically abused at least once since the age of 15,” it can be argued that Rwanda’s progress is fantastic.
New laws have given women the right to inherit land, share assets of a marriage and obtain credit. Furthermore, as many girls as boys receive primary and secondary education, maternal mortality is lower and the birth rate is falling.
One progressive initiative marshalled in by Rwandan Women Parliamentarians, is groups such as Association des Veuves du Génocide Agahozo, or The Association of Genocide Widows AVEGA AGAHOZO, which aims to support the hundreds of thousands of women widowed after the genocide. According to the guardian.com, “the fight for equality became second to survival.”
Also, there is the National Women’s Council (NWC),a forum for women’s participation in national governance. At age 18, all Rwandan women and girls become members of the NWC, which operates at village, cell district and sector levels to mobilize women’s decision making.
The representation of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians has been a remarkable form of progress for this developing country. Rwanda’s strides in improving women’s status in their society is an exemplary initiative that needs to be emulated by other developing countries.
Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, UN, The Guardian