السياسة: Women majority parliaments: The case of Rwanda

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Amal Ashtal-Durri
اليمن

Women majority parliaments: The case of Rwanda

Rwanda, which already enjoyed the highest level of women's representation in parliament in the world at 48.75 %, now has a women’s representation of 55%. In the recent second democratic election held in that country, women won 44 of the 80 parliamentary seats.

While some believe that numbers do count, others question the degree to which higher representation of women in parliament guarantees more gender-sensitive policy agendas. Personally, more than woman’s dominance of parliament, what I find worthier of celebration is the Rwandan society’s acceptance and welcoming of women’s increasing leadership. This is particularly so in contrast to my country, Yemen, where the mere proposal of introducing a 15% quota for women in parliament (in which women currently hold only 2 seats out of 301) has always been met with severe resistance, particularly from religious groups. I realize of course that a comparison of the two countries may be implausible given their different historical, political, and structural realities.

But looking at a case such as Rwanda, what becomes the most important question to address? Should we be discussing nominal versus actual representation of women as reflected in gender-sensitive policy agendas and outputs? Or the extent to which this representation truly reflects society’s perception of women, particularly as leaders? Or perhaps the extent to which this a step towards a very distant but vaguely conceivable matriarchy?

IMOW Team
IMOW Team
الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

2 Stories to Inform Your Replies

Thank you Amal for starting this important conversation! There are 2 stories in our Women, Power and Politics online exhibition that may help you think about Amal's questions:

Forgiving in Rwanda
-- Genocide survivor Norah Bagirinka talks about political changes for women in Rwanda.

10 Questions with Professor Ida Bloom -- We interview a Norwegian expert about how high percentages of women in Norway's Parliament have affected policy.

Context is Everything

Hi Amal,
Thank you for this very thought-provoking conversation. Your questions are really interesting to think about especially given the context of Rwanda. Norah's story in the exhibition attributes the high percentages of women not necessarily as a result of women's achievements, but more so as a lack of men to fill political positions in the government. When the genocide took the lives of so many adult males in Rwanda, adult women were pushed into political positions without much training or experience, and -- I wonder -- time to mourn the loss of brothers, fathers, husbands and friends. (I would just like to take a moment to say how truly moved and inspired I am to hear the stories of Rwandan women survivors and leaders.)

I wonder how this context affects attitudes in Rwanda? Does the way women achieve power make a difference in the way people perceive their power? Will the next political generation in Rwanda have a female majority or will it revert back to a male majority when their are more men to fill positions?

Wangui Banks
Wangui Banks
الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

What is it like in Yemen?

Dear Amal,

thank you for this great question and the comparison you drew to your own country. Although I do not feel equipped to answer your questions I am eager to learn from our community members' responses.

However I am curious to know how women in Yemen make their voices heard. How did those 2 women parliamentarian get where they are and what are the types of discussions women in Yemen have about emancipation?

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية

Amal, your viewpoint is very thought provoking. I believe that while it is important to see woman well represented in government, it is even more important that these women be qualified, but even more than that, the women should be more than mere puppets.

My biggest questions and concerns would be: Are the women elected and placed in position in governement actually able to bring about positive change not just for other women, but for the country as a whole?

I think that often when women are elected into any government seat, she is expected to solely address the issues of women. As when people of color are elected into a governement office, they are expected to be their own experts. This to me is a sign that the appointment of women, or any other minoity group for that matter still holds less weight.
The ideal would be to look beyond simply male and female issues. Beyond black and white. The ideal would be that each person is elected into office because they have something worthy to offer and becasue they wish to see progress for the entire nation. The ideal. Will we ever get to that ideal?

بطاقات: Rwanda , quotas , Yemen , elyvanie mukangoga


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