Rwandan women make up two-thirds of parliament's seats

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Progress born out of country’s darkest period in recent history

KIGALI, Rwanda — Rwanda is now a country where women occupy a unique place in the world, as they now make up 64 percent of the Rwandan parliament, or roughly two-thirds of its membership.

This progress, however, did not happen easily.

It was their role as active economic and social actors that allowed Rwandan women to secure 51 of the 80 seats in Rwanda’s parliament.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union said in its 2015 report that the percentage of seats Rwandan women achieved in parliament is unique across the whole world and surpassed the most optimistic expectations of the U.S.

Justine Mukubeya, a Rwandan MP who represents young people, told Anadolu Agency, in an enthusiastic and confident tone: “I am 28 years old and the youngest MP in the country, and as a woman, I understand well that this situation reflects a big progress for Rwandan women.”

The progress which Rwandan women have achieved is not limited to politics, but also includes the social and economic spheres.

This progress was born from one of the darkest periods that Rwanda has witnessed.

In 1994, the worst tragedy to shake the country took place – the genocide in which 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped and more than 400,000 others lost their husbands, according to UN figures.

Rwandan women were, however, able to overcome this dark page in their history and created from its ashes a force that swept the country’s political and economic life.

In the aftermath of the genocide, which killed more than a million people according to official data, numerous reforms were made in support of women, which ultimately led to the 2003 Rwandan Constitution recognizing total equality between the sexes.

The constitution also required 30 percent female representation in all decision-making bodies and changed the law so that women have the right to family inheritance.

These are all reforms which have made Rwandan women more prominent in their country.

In the current Rwandan government, a number of senior positions have been given to highly qualified and experienced women.

One of these is Louise Mushikiwabo, who has been Rwanda’s foreign minister since 2009.

The third elected speaker of the lower house of Rwanda’s parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, told Anadolu Agency that “most of the women carry out their duties to the required level, and therefore, I would not be surprised if a woman is elected to the position of president in the future.”

“I believe that the Rwandan mentality has changed radically, and therefore, in the event a woman reaches the highest position in the land, she will protect equality between men and women so that Rwanda can develop,” she added.

Juvenal Nkusi, a Rwandan MP and former speaker of the parliament, told Anadolu Agency: “We men are a minority in parliament at this moment in time. But I believe that women have the ability to improve the administration of public affairs at all levels. Therefore, we do not see any problems in combining our efforts for the sake of moving the country forward.”

In addition to politics, Rwandan women have also swept the economic world in an African country which has more than 2,000 women active in different economic fields, according to current data.

This led authorities to set up a special chamber for businesswomen in Rwanda.

In 2014, the names of two Rwandan women were included in a list of the 50 most influential women in the world, classified by Jeune Afrique, a French magazine.

They were Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and Minister of East African Community Valentine Rugwabiza, who were described as role-models for women.

Around six million of Rwanda’s 12 million people are women.

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