23 September 2013

Rwanda: Women Win 64 Percent of Seats in Parliamentary Elections, Maintaining Number One Spot Worldwide

Kigali — The recently concluded parliamentary elections handed women an overwhelming majority in Rwanda's Parliament, with 51 out 80 seats in the Chamber of Deputies - that is 64% - now occupied by women.

Rwanda already led the world with the highest number of women in Parliament at 56% in the last parliamentary term (2008-2013). With an increase of 8%, Rwanda breaks its own world record.

Announcing the results, the Chairman of National Electoral Commission, Professor Mbanda Kalisa said that among the 5,953,531 Rwandans eligible to vote, 5,881,874 which represents 98%, voted in this election.

"Besides the 24 exclusive women seats which were decided in the September 17 indirect election, women also won 26 of the 53 seats in the direct elections held on September 16," he said.

Rwanda's 2003 Constitution says that either sex shall occupy not less than 30 per cent of all decision-making organs.

Worldwide, the average women representation in the Lower House stands at 21.3 per cent, 18.8 per cent in the Upper House (Senate) and 20.9 in both Houses, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union figures released on July 1, 2013.

Rwanda has three times the average in the Lower House, and double the worldwide average of the Senate. Women in the Senate now occupy 10 out of the current 25 members which represent 40 per cent.

During the recent meeting held in July where over two thousand women of all walks of life, President Kagame urged women to begin by believing in their right to equality.

"Gender equality in every sector is not a favor, it is your right. It is the way it should be. The right to equality is not something that can be given or taken. It begins with each of you believing in your equal ability to achieve," said President Kagame.

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi , women have played an important role in rebuilding the nation. Beyond reconciliation and politics, women now occupy critical positions of leadership in business, education, health and all other sectors affecting the everyday lives of Rwandans.

In recent days, people have questioned whether the quota system is still relevant as women were able to secure an almost majority with direct voting.

Dr. Rose Mukantabana, former speaker of Parliament, thinks not. "The law applies to all decision making bodies, not just Parliament. Has the 30% been achieved everywhere? No. The quota system helped fill a void that would not have filled itself. A lot more work remains to be done, especially for rural women."

Asked when she thought the quota system could be removed, Dr. Mukantabana said, "When the country sees that it we have enough female representation in all spheres, Rwandans can decide to review the constitution, but until then, there is no doubt that having more women in Parliament has increased the well being of women, and all Rwandans in general."

During the 2008-2013 legislature, MPs passed 349 laws.

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