Women in Rwanda

by UHRC on 21/11/10 at 11:59 pm


Residents in Kigali, Rwanda, take part in a march for women. Officials say Rwanda's parliament has a higher percentage of women than any other parliament in the world. Photograph: Jason Straziuso/AP

By Nora Kayserian

Online news publication, The Guardian, posted an article back in May about the revolution in rights of women in Rwanda that I think is worth mentioning.

The article states that what is happening for women in Rwanda’is “little short of revolutionary”. Women now make up 56% of the country’s parliamentarians, which means they have a’big influence.

It is a law in Rwanda to have at least 30% of the seats in government, including local government. ‘There used to be a lot of rapes, wife beating, male domination of women, boys sent to school and not girls,’ said Daphrose Nyirasafali, national program officer for UNFPA, the UN’s family planning and reproductive health organization. ‘That has all changed, even in the countryside.’

Some of the changes include:

1. The right to own land and property.

2. Choosing to pool their assets with their husband or ‘to keep them separate.

3. Inheritance laws have been passed so that a man’s property is split equally between his wife and both female and male children.

4. Rape has been acknowledged as a very serious offence; there is a free police hotline and there are heavy jail sentences for perpetrators.

5. The right to choose whether or not they want to have children.

6. Contraception has been made widely available.

‘Traditionally in Rwanda men and women had different roles, and separate domains’, said Juliana Kantengwa, who trained as a vet, in exile in Uganda, and who is now a member of Rwanda’s senate. ‘There were no-go areas, like drumming,’ she said. It used to be a male dominated’tradition but now teams of girls drum with strength, enthusiasm and skill

‘In modern times they are happy. We see fathers encouraging their daughters to do engineering and get out of nursing. We have quite a number in the army and police force,’ added Kantengwa. However, there are issues that remain. For example, domestic violence is still prevalent and the majority of women who go into politics early don’t get married.

Rwanda’s progress on women is admired by many. This month the government convened an international forum on the role of leadership in gender equality and woman’s empowerment, attracting women ministers, MPs and dignitaries from all over Africa and beyond, including the Tanzanian UN deputy secretary general, Asha-Rose Migiro. ‘I salute you for bringing gender and equality to the heart of the political process,’ she told the forum in the Rwandan parliament.




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