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Rwanda has 61.25% Women Parliamentarians in the Lower House

Kingson Chingakham

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Undoubtedly, Rwanda is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa. The good news does not end here. According to the data from Inter-Parliamentary Union, Rwanda has ranked the highest in the list of women parliamentarians in the Lower House among the 189 countries (as on July 1, 2019). The Lower House of Rwanda is known as Chamber of Deputies (CoD). Parliamentarians are known as Deputies.

The CoD has a total strength of 80 members. The last election was held on September 2018. In an unprecedented result, women secured 49 seats in the Lower House contributing to 61.25% in CoD. The Rwanda Parliament is bicameral and the total strength of the Upper House/Senate is 26. There are 10 women in the Senate (38.46%). Although, not the highest, this figure is higher than most of the developed countries. The term for the Senate is 8 years.

Women Speakers

The Speaker of the House is also a woman. Since October 2008, the position of the Speaker of the House has been under women. Rose Mukantabana took charge from October 2008 till October 2013. The current Speaker of the House, Donatille Mukabalisa, has been in the chair since October 2013. This is her second term.

Women Reservation

There is an electoral quota for women in Rwanda. 24 female Deputies shall be elected by specific organs in accordance with national administrative entities. A Presidential Order shall determine a national administrative entity and the number of women Deputies to be elected at each entity. At each entity through which election has been conducted, candidates who obtain more votes shall be considered as elected. As a note to the statutory numbers of the members, 24 women are indirectly elected by electoral colleges from each Province and the City of Kigali. Therefore, 24 women are directly elected and 24 others are indirectly elected.

Gender and Age Profile

The Youngest Deputy, Clarisse Imaniriho, is a woman (Age 23). There are no male deputies who fall under the category of ‘Percentage of Deputies 30 years of age or younger'(the corresponding figure for women deputies is 1.25%). The percentage of women deputies 40 years of age or younger is 17.5%, for male, it is 5%. Lastly, the percentage of Deputies 45 years or younger is 28.75% for women and 11.25% for male.

Women Specific Caucus

There is a caucus by the name of Rwandan Women’s Parliamentary Forum (RWPF). It was created in 1996. It is formal in nature and it is not open to male deputies. In addition, men interested in joining the caucus can be granted membership by the General Assembly. Members of the Rwandan parliament and other politicians who so request are also welcome to join the Caucus (IPU 2019).

There are rules governing the functioning of the caucus. Some of the issues dealt with by the caucus are:

  • Women parliamentarians have contributed to the establishment of a legal and policy framework providing a clear mandate for gender equality in the Rwandan Parliament, helping to forge the national political will needed to pass the 2003 Constitution and related legislation on the electoral process, gender-based violence, inheritance, labour, nationality and citizenship, access to reproductive healthcare, crime (including the Penal Code and the criminalization of rape during genocide) and the governance of political parties.
  • Legislation on the rights of children, a Family Code, and gender mainstreaming in the national budget.

Women in Cabinet

There are 26 Cabinet members excluding the Prime Minister. 50% of the cabinet is represented by women. Therefore, 13 women hold the following portfolios:

  1. Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning
  2. Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources
  3. Minister of ICT and Innovation
  4. Minister of Health
  5. Minister of State in charge of Social Affairs
  6. Minister of Gender and Family Promotion
  7. Minister In-charge of Emergency Management
  8. Minister of Trade and Industry
  9. Minister of Public Service and Labor
  10. Minister of Sports and Culture
  11. Minister of Youth
  12. Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister in charge of Cabinet Affairs
  13. Minister in the Office of the President

EndNote

In 1961, the right to vote (universal) was granted to women of Rwanda. Again in 1961, right to stand for elections was granted to all women except for the position of the President. However, the new Constitution of 1978 made amendments and granted the right to stand elections to women even for the position of President. Even though the right to stand for elections was granted in 1961, Rwanda Parliament got its first woman parliamentarian in 1981.

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