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Why Rwanda the first in world to have women parliamentary majority?

Posted on the September 20th, 2008

I don’t know about you, but that was the first question that popped into my head when I saw the headline this week about Rwanda’s achievement? (“In a world first, women in the majority in Rwanda legislature” AFP, Sept 18, 2008).

As I remember, it was only in 1994 that Rwanda ended a genocidal war that left 800,000 of its people dead. How does a country move from being one of the most tragic in history to being one of the most forward-thinking in history in the span of only 14 years?

The answer: It was the first terrible event, the war, that was the catalyst for a new law that led to the second situation of more women in political leadership, according to sources cited on Wikipedia’s Rwanda page (“Gender Conflict and Development” by Tsjeard Bouta, 2004; “Strengthening governance: the role of women in Rwanda’s transition” by Elizabeth Powley).

In short, per Wikipedia, a new law and a new philosophy by the new government:

By law, at least a third of the Parliament representation must be female. It is believed that women will not allow the mass killings of the past to be repeated.

The recent video from AlJazeera, below, is the first of a two-part report on Rwanda. It explores the country’s past tragedy and its recovery. The report also features interviews with some of the women now assuming such a featured role in the government and social programs of the country (“Africa Uncovered: Rights & Reconstruction” Sept 1, 2008).  Ah, and yes, there’s also an interview with a man who objects to this speed-tracking of women as leaders. Gee, imagine that.

I found these videos here at the WE Empower website.

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