African women leaders learn from Rwanda

Rwandan women line up take part in a vote for National Womens Council in Kigali in July 2004 (Photo: Reuters)

TELESURTV.NET: The world has a lot to learn from female empowerment in Rwanda where sixty-four percent of its parliament consists of women – more than any other country in the world.

Female lawmakers from all over Africa traveled to Rwanda on Monday to begin a week-long “study tour.” The women will share their leadership ideas, exchange experiences from their time in parliament, and discuss ways to encourage female participation in politics within Africa and the world.

Some 50 female delegates are attending the conference from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burkina Faso, Central African Republic (CAR), Mali, Madagascar, Niger and Eritrea.

According to a Rwandan government statement, the theme for the five-day tour is “Building an Enabling Environment for Womens Economic Empowerment and Political Participation in Africa.”

Rwanda’s political engagement of women has been deemed a huge success. Sixty-four percent of its parliament is made up of women – occupying 45 out of the 80 seats. That is more than any other country in the world. The Rwandan Constitution also states that women must constitute no less than 30 percent of positions in the Legislature. Worldwide, women still represent only 21.9 percent of all elected parliamentarians.

Diana Ofwona, the United Nations women representative in Rwanda, and acting U.N. resident coordinator, said people have a lot to learn from the country in terms of women empowerment and political participation. In addressing the delegates in Rwandas capital of Kigali on Monday, Ofwona also challenged governments to remove all impediments to women empowerment and their ability to enter politics.

These deterrents come from existing cultural stereotypes that lead to gender discrimination and marginalization, says Donatile Mukabalisa, Speaker of Rwandan Parliament. Empowering women means breaking those stereotypes, she added.

The study tour is an joint-initiative by the African Union, the regional office of the United Nations Development Program, and the Forum of Rwandan Women Parliamentarians.

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