More than two decades after the famous Beijing Women’s Conference, the Republic of Rwanda has proven to be the country with the best female empowerment practices in the world. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, it is time to salute these practices while encouraging others to do more to raise awareness of issues related to gender equality.
According to the Rwanda Minister of Gender Affairs, Oda Gasinzingwa, this great move forward is due to the fact that they have been on a transformative journey after the genocide in 1994 Rwandan, when women decided to take the lead in the rebuilding process of Rwanda. Rwanda has also enacted laws empowering women especially, the post-genocide constitution of 2003. Today in Rwanda there is zero tolerance to gender violence and women can also inherit properties, including land property. While speaking at the World Economic Forum the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame said gender equality is a human right.
Today the world celebrates Rwanda because of some tangible empowerment practices in that East African country.
Since the last Parliamentary elections of 2013 out of the 80 Members of Parliament, 51 of the elected are women, a 63.8% majority. Directly behind Rwanda is Bolivia with 69 women out of 130 Members of Parliament, a total of 53.1%. There are still more economically advanced countries which are yet to attain the United Nations 30% average level like Canada with just 26%, France with 26.2% and United States with 19.4% of Congress members made of women. The Rwandan example is a challenge to the world that women can also rebuild; women can be part of a peace, reconciliation and healing process as preached by the United Nations. However, women empowerment should be handled with care so that it does not divide the world into two: a world of women against men. Rather, gender empowerment should instead be geared at harnessing the talents of a woman for family, societal and nation building to build more equality.
In 1995, while Rwanda was still suffering from the horrors of one of the greatest human tragedy of recent times, women around the world were converging on the Chinese city of Beijing for a summit that laid down the foundations of what is known today as women’s empowerment. But surprisingly, Rwanda is taking the lead in empowering its women after hundreds of thousands were killed and raped. When the genocide ended about 70% of the population was women, and they decided to take the lead and not sit back and wait. Today, they are leading the world.