On the occasion of International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrated this March 8 around the world, several voices are rising to claim better places for women. In most countries, it is difficult to find a parity. But in Africa, there is one exception: Rwanda.

With more than 61% of women in the Chamber of Deputies, the country is at the top of the world rankings. A country that remains a model in several fields.

But in the case of women’s representation in the Assembly, it is a reference case. While they already had a respectable place in some key institutions, women saw their numbers increase in recent elections in 2013.

Of the 80 seats in the Rwandan Parliament, 51 are occupied by women. Since 2008, Rwanda has been at the top of the IPU (Interparliamentary Union) world ranking of women in national parliaments.

An important place reserved for women which is the fruit of several initiatives taken for decades. After the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 people, several laws that have been adopted, go in favor of parity.

For illustration, the new Constitution adopted in 2003 establishes as a fundamental principle the equality between men and women with “the attribution of at least 30% of the posts to the women in the decision-making institutions of the State”.

Since then, the electoral system has been respected to the letter with 24 seats reserved for women. These are chosen, in theory, on non-partisan bases, by colleges and councils at the local and national levels.

Despite prejudices, it must be recognized that it was the Rwandan women themselves who had to struggle to win.

Ethiopian members of parliament have elected Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s first female president, making her Africa’s only female head of state.

(Photo: BBC)

President Sahle-Work, at her swearing-in ceremony, promised to work hard to make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia, and promote peace in the country:

“I urge you all, to uphold our peace, in the name of a mother, who is the first to suffer from the absence of peace.”

She was voted in after the unexpected resignation of her predecessor, Mulatu Teshome. President Sahle-Work has previously served as an ambassador for Ethiopia in Senegal and Djibouti. She has also held a number of UN positions, including head of peace-building in the Central African Republic and, most recently, the UN representative at the African Union.

Out of 80 parliamentary seats in Rwanda, women occupy 54 seats, which is 67.5%. The new record was set after the National Electoral Commission announced the September 3 parliamentary elections results, which saw President Kagame’s party, RPF sweeping 74% of the total vote and taking 40 seats.

By contrast, women in the Nigerian House of Assembly and the Senate make up less than 10% of all the representatives.

While Rwanda is a world leader for women in politics, no woman has managed to become President. Two have tried unsuccessfully, and the last one who tried, Diane Rwigara, is now facing 20years in prison.

Though President Kagame places value on women’s roles and spearheaded many reforms to help build women’s capacity in civil society, his dictatorial government is still limiting women’s – and human – rights.
Credit: konbini.com