19 September 2008

Women outnumber men in Rwandan parliament

According to the BBC Rwanda is set to make history by becoming the first country where women will outnumber men in parliament. Women have taken 44 out of 80 seats so far - The number could rise if three seats reserved for the disabled and youth representatives go to females.

Rwanda’s post-genocide constitution ensures a 30% quota for female MPs, already held the record for the most women in parliament. In the outgoing parliament, 48.8% of MPs were women – This was already the world's highest rate. It is now set to be at least 55%.

Women who stood in seats reserved for female candidates were not allowed to represent a party. "The problems of women are understood much better, much better by women themselves," voter Anne Kayitesi told the BBC's Focus on Africa.

"You see men, especially in our culture, men used to think that women are there to be in the house, cook food, look after the children... but the real problems of a family are known by a woman and when they do it, they help a country to get much better."

Although proportion of women in the Rwandan parliament is assisted by a quota it is still an important landmark. Sweden has the second highest representation with 47%; Cuba is third at 43.2% (There is little worth, however, in being elected to a toothless rubber-stamping assembly whether male or female). Just 19.5% of British MPs are women while female representation in the US Congress and Senate stands at 16.8% and 16% respectively. Ireland trails the likes of Djibouti and Cameroon with just 22 female TDs out of a total of 166.

Click here for a comprehensive list female representation by nation.


Sean Jeating said...

This list is very interesting, the story behind the success of Rwanda's women is both tragic and amazing.
Many of those women who survived the genocide, had lost almost everything. They 'fought' to survive, to make a humble living for their children, old relatives and themselves. Those who had lost all their relatives would care for orphans and old people in their neighbourhood.
When the men who had survived the bloodshed returned and tried to play the big machos again they had to learn that (most of) 'their' women would not anymore do their bidding.
To cut a long comment short: The women of Rwanda - tenthousands of them victims of rape - would not let men decide what they have to do. I do feel deep respect. In case they succeed there might even be a certain domino effect in other African countries. I do wish them well, anway.

Yes, Jams, the waterfall above is also amazing ...

jams o donnell said...

I hope they make a good job of it Sean, Lets face it tehy can hardly fuck u the country more than us men have!

Devon DeMars said...

Thank you for your post about women in Rwandan parliament. I am happy to see that people around the world are interested in the situation in Africa and the improvements being made. So often we hear sad stories about the continent and it is refreshing that there is finally attention focused on the good in Africa, and in this case, the increasing empowerment of women in Rwanda.

As you mentioned that the election of 44 female MPs is “an important landmark” and partly due to the quota system, do you feel that the quota system is a legitimate force? In other words, I’ve heard some argument that because 24 seats in Parliament have to be reserved for women, many of the women are not as qualified as their male counterparts who won their seats in the direct election. I am interested to see how people around the world react to this news; whether they disregard it as women who didn’t technically “deserve” the seat, or whether they praise this new development.

I appreciate that you listed the amount of female representation in politics by nation, as it shows how immense of an accomplishment Rwanda has made compared to other nations and how far the world in general has yet to come. Many consider gender equality a “Western” idea implemented in developed countries, though you have shown this idea to be false. It is shocking that a newly-developing country, such as Rwanda, can be so much further ahead in integrating women in politics than developed democracies such as Ireland or the United States. I would like to note again that 55% of Rwanda’s Parliament is female compared to 19.5% of MPs in Britain, about 16% of Senators or Congressmen in the US, and only about 13 of the TDs in Ireland. By comparing the amount of women in politics around the world, you have created a different angle to these reports and have included the whole world in this pursuit of gender equality.

Thanks again for your information. I have included a link to my blog which focuses on women’s issues in Africa. Cheers!

Devon DeMars said...

I realized I did not include the link! In case you are interested, it is www.devonvdemars.blogspot.com

jams o donnell said...

Thasnks for you comment Devon. Personally I hope it is a watershed for Rwanda, a ntion that has been through too many seasons in hell.