Globally, Rwanda is only but a landlocked country in East Africa that experienced genocide in the 90s leaving thousands of people dead and many more nursing physical and psychological scars.
But this is not all about Rwanda. Over the years, it has come to be listed as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Between 2001 and 2014, Rwanda’s GDP growth was around 8 percent. With the support of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the country has made significant economic and structural reforms, leading to more sustainable growth rates.
Then there is gender equality aspect. Rwanda has topped the gender equality list for several years. According to a recent report-Global Gender Gap Report- Rwanda is among five global leaders in matters gender equality. The first four are Nordic countries (Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden), with Rwanda coming in fifth. On top of that, the wage gap between men and women is also narrow.
So, exactly how has the East African nation been able to keep this up?
Quota system increases female representation
Sub-Saharan Africa has achieved a lot especially in empowering women to join leadership positions. Data from the UN Women indicate that the number of female legislators on the continent rose by 13.4 percent to stand at 23.4 percent today compared to 9.8 percent in 1995.
Rwanda has the highest number of female representation in the parliament. Women have won 63.8 percent of seats in the lower house, making it world’s leader. The Senate has 38 percent women representation, 43 percent in the Judiciary, and Cabinet (40 percent), among others.
The high number of female representation in the legislature is contributed by Rwanda’s policies which stipulate that 30 percent of all parliamentary seats should be held by women. Through the quota system, the country has increased the number women, youth and persons with disabilities in leadership positions.
Women supporting women
Rwanda’s population is approximately 11.61 million, of which more than half (52 percent) are women, according to World Bank data.
In the wake of the 1994 genocide, more women began to work, becoming part of the economic force. As women rose to leadership positions at the local and national level, they nudged others to follow suit. They instituted policies that benefited other women.
Several affirmative projects to uplift women have contributed to the high numbers too. Take for example the implementation of girl’s education policy, the universal twelve year basic education, and technical vocational education training programs. Such initiatives continue to empower women, thus reducing gender imbalance over time.
In addition to high levels of participation in the labor force, the wage gap is narrower in Rwanda than other countries in the world, with women earning 88 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In the US, for example, women only earn 74 cents for every dollar a man gets. Despite the introduction of legislation such as the Equality Act 2010, research shows that full-time women workers in the United Kingdom are paid on average $1.73 (£1.34) an hour less than men.
Every woman listed here by The African Exponent, in all has a pinch of power to inspire every young African.
Rwanda’s achievement continues to give hope as the world seeks to cross the gender and wage gaps. According to Global Gender Index Gap 2015, women will be able to earn as much as men in 2133- a staggering 116 years from now.
One thing that Rwanda gets right is ensuring that women get three months paid maternity leave. This encourages women to continue staying in the labor market, once they have started a family, unlike in the US, where many women stay home without pay during maternity break.
When women are in power positions, they are more likely to formulate policies that promote social and health wellbeing of the society. Thus, gender equality and the empowerment of women are imperative to sustainable development.
Other initiatives put in place to support women to venture into the labor market as well as the political arena include Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, a commitment to gender-based budgeting, and a gender-monitoring office, to mention but a few. Rwanda’s remarkable achievement in gender equality and women’s empowerment is due to constitutional and legal frameworks supported by political will, people and other institutions in the country.