The New Times (Kigali)

18 September 2013

Rwanda: Against All Odds - Women Who Made It to Parliament

The just concluded parliamentary elections featured women who didn't ask for equality and leadership to be handed to them on a platter. They chose to fight it out with male candidates for their respective positions. They spent weeks of vigorous campaigning and some of them were evaluated according to their previous performance.

Juliana Kantengwa.

The age, previous careers or family responsibilities did not stand in their way. If anything, it served as a source of strength to most. Below are the women candidates who made it to the August house, writes Collins Mwai.

Juliana Kantengwa (RPF)

The 55-year-old mother of five joined politics in 1999 and has since held various positions in parliament. During her previous tenures in parliament, Kantengwa served in several house committees in various capacities including chairperson and vice chairperson.

Caritas Mukandasira.

Amongst her list of achievements include being the chair person of east African regional caucus at the Pan African parliament, the Secretary General of the Great Lakes Parliamentary Forum on Peace.

Kantengwa holds a masters degree in veterinary and pathology from the University of Nairobi but her participation in politics has left her little time to practice her profession.

"We are developing at a fast rate, we will continue to accelerate the rate of development and continue implementing other programs like rural electrification, connecting remote areas through feeder roads and promotion of agriculture," Kantengwa promised.

Sebera Henriette Mukamurangwa.

Caritas Mukandasira (PSD)

The former head of a primary school began taking interest in politics in 2001 when she served as a chamber attendant. In 2005 she became head of her party PSD in the Western province.

The law graduate from Independent Institute of Lay Adventists Kigali (UNILAK) says that she will focus on creating opportunities for women and youth. "I will also advocate for at least a vocational school in every district and the spread of the rural electrification programme."

Julienne Uwacu.

Mukandasira is a mother of three.

Sebera Henriette Mukamurangwa (PL)

Born in Rwanda, Mukamurangwa's family fled to Uganda due to the ethnic discrimination and inequality, a factor that could have led to her running for public office. The former entrepreneur took interest in politics in 1991 and joined parliament in 1995 under the Liberty Party.

Alphonsine Mukarugema.

Mukamurangwa promises to continue contributing positively to the country's development and seeing to it that women no longer suffer silently.

"I am glad we had a chance to campaign, it was a clear indication of democracy and freedom of speech."

Julienne Uwacu (RPF)

Connie Sekamana Bwiza.

At only 33 years of age, Julienne Uwacu has served as a judge and later represented her people in the legislature. The mother of two who hails from Nyabihu district served as deputy chairperson of the foreign affairs, cooperation and security committee in parliament's last mandate.

The ULK graduate says that as MP she will see to it that laws passed are for the betterment of the constituent lives. "The constitution gives power to the legislature to make sure that we pass laws which help people develop in all aspects, education, health, economically and security wise. I will also play my part to see that we have good relations with our neighbours."

Alphonsine Mukarugema (RPF)

Speciose Mukandutiye.

Mukarugema joined politics because she figured that had there been more women in leadership prior to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi, there probably would have been less bloodshed. "Women also urged me to vie for the position and speak out on their behalf," says Mukarugema who joined politics in 2003 under Rwanda Patriotic Front Party.

The law graduate has spent most of her years as a primary and secondary teacher and ended as the head teacher at Ecole Secondary, Mukingi.

The 60-year-old mother of four says that she will keep being a voice of change in the nation, "I want to prove that women can contribute positively to building a nation."

Esperance Mwiza.

Connie Sekamana Bwiza (RPF)

"Being born as a refugee in Uganda is probably what drove me to become a member of the legislature," Bwiza answers as to why she joined politics.

Despite her upbringing, Bwiza went on to become a leader and prove to girls that where you come from doesn't matter. "In my earlier years, I participated in the liberation of the country in 1994, that's how much I love my country and my people." She says her inspiration to join politics was out of seeing poor governance and realities that could be changed."

Marie-Agnes Mukazibera.

Before joining parliament in 1999, Bwiza served in several ministries and also worked with various UN programmes. In the last parliament's mandate, Bwiza was a member of the National Budget and Patrimony Committee. Bwiza is currently writing a thesis at National University of Rwanda (NUR) to complete her masters degree in development studies.

The 45-year-old mother of three says that she will not rest till poverty has been driven out and the economic development is reflected on the livelihoods of Rwandan citizens. "We have come from far as a country and the struggle continues."

Spéciose Mukandutiye (RPF)

Jacqueline Mukakanyamugenge.

After spending years as a primary and secondary school teacher, Mukandutiye joined politics in 1999. In her previous tenures in parliament, she has served in several house committees in various positions including chairlady of Social Affairs Committee.

The mother of four promises that she will keep implementing her party's manifesto as she has always done. "Good governance, economic and social development will always be at the top my list of priorities," Mukandutiye says.

Espérance Mwiza (RPF)

Espérance Mwiza is another former refugee who has risen to hold leadership positions. The law graduate who spent most of her childhood in DRC as a refugee rose to become the vice chairperson of National Women Council, Chairperson of Women's Organisational Structures in Kigali city amongst other positions.

In the last parliament's mandate, Mwiza headed the social affairs committee.

The mother of six who hails from Rusizi district, Western province promises to keep implementing her party's manifesto and looking out for the welfare of women.

Marie-Agnès Mukazibera (RPF)

Though she debuted into politics in 2003, it is not her first time to hold a leadership position. Mukazibera had previously served as PS in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and also previously headed several youth welfare programmes. The mother of two daughters once worked as a teacher at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) before taking on leadership positions.

In parliament's last mandate, she sat at the head of the table at the Education, Technology, Culture and Youth committee bringing in experience she had accumulated over the years.

Mukazibera promises to continue supporting and implementing the four pillars of her party, RPF, as well as lobbying for laws that will improve the lives of Rwandans.

Jacquéline Mukakanyamugenge (PSD)

Mukakanyamugenge who joined politics in 2002 says that she did it to contribute positively to the country's development.

Previously a director in social affairs in Gikondo district, Mukakanyamugenge later went on to head the Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security Committee for three years.

The 40-year-old mother of four holds a degree in public administration. She promised to promote and implement her parties manifesto for the betterment of Rwandans.

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Other women who clinched party seats:

Marie-Jose Kankera - FPR

Liberata Kayitesi - FPR

Cecile Murumunawabo - FPR

Marie Therese - FPR

Marie-Rose Mureshyankwano - FPR

Esperance Nyirasafari - FPR

Francesca Tengera Twikirize - FPR

Euthalie Nyirabega - FPR

Agnes Nyirabagenzi - FPR

Clotilde Mukakarangwa - FPR

Veneranda Nyirahirwa - PSD

Georgette Rutayisire M - PSD

Donatille Mukabalisa - PL

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