For this is Rwanda’s big success story. It has the distinction of being the only country in the world with more female MPs than male ones, a statistic that has attracted a good deal of international attention, not least from the Zurich-based Women in Parliaments organisation, set up last year, which this week is holding its summer summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Not surprisingly, many of those attending the conference are keen to find out how Rwanda has managed to reach the figure of 64% women in its parliament, which is unheard-of everywhere else.
Worldwide, women still represent under a quarter (21.9%) of all elected parliamentary seats, but in Rwanda the post-genocide situation, in which 70% of the country’s remaining population was female, and the introduction of quotas requiring 30% of political and government candidates to be women, have brought about real change, in national and local politics and across public positions.
Half the country’s 14 supreme court justices are women, for instance.
Boys and girls now attend compulsory primary and secondary school in equal numbers, and new laws enable women to own and inherit property. But this is not just about numbers.
The rebuilding of Rwanda’s public bodies was driven by a number of senior women determined that women’s gains in senior positions would not be lost as the gender balance gradually began to adjust. They include Donatille Mukabalisa, the speaker of the Rwandan chamber of deputies, who has been pushing reform over the past two decades.
Mukabalisa, whose keynote speech opened the conference on Tuesday, has said that while the quota system clearly helped speed up women’s participation in politics, women appointed and elected to a whole range of public positions have been so successful in making a positive difference that the country may reach a point where quotas are unnecessary.
There are other lessons to be learned from the country’s rebuilding process. One of those is about handling disputes, and the need to increase the participation of women in post-conflict societies.
(via Lessons from Rwanda’s female-run institutions | Jane Dudman | Society | The Guardian)