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Women Overshadow Men in Rwanda’s Parliament

Women groups are reportedly hailing President Paul Kagame government's gender equality policy after 44 women were elected to Rwanda's 80-seat parliament in this month's election. This makes Rwanda the first country in the world where women outnumber men in parliament, according to results released so far by the country's electoral commission. Some political observes say the number of women parliamentarians could even be higher if three seats, which are reserved for the physically challenged and youth representatives go to women.

Women groups say it is a welcome development, which would further boost the confidence of young girls in Rwandan society. Shyaka Kanuma is the editor of the focus newspaper. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Kigali that Rwandans are proud of how far women have come after the country's 1994 genocide.

"They are proud that we have really been the first to break so to speak where the women have broken the glass ceiling with so many numbers in Rwanda's parliament. Naturally, Rwanda is a patriarchal society and politics was very much a male thing, but now it's like we are enlightened. We are no longer in this backward sort of thinking that women are only good for the kitchen or household chores, and honestly people are proud of that," Kanuma pointed out.

He said Rwandans, by overwhelmingly voting for female parliamentarians, are reposing great confidence in the abilities of women.

"People voted for women in greater numbers and I think they were voting for the best representatives they could think of. So, if it turns out that women are even in greater numbers than men, then you know it's kind of surprising, but at the same time we feel proud of ourselves," he said.

Kanuma said after the 1994 genocide in which scores of Rwandans were killed with women reportedly the most affected, the government came out with policies to promote gender equality.

"Rwanda has some progressive laws, especially on gender equality and women empowerment. And it has really been a process, which has made girls so empowered even before this, and this is going to make them more confident of themselves and more ready to throw their hats in the ring as far as matter so the office are concerned and vying for offices. You can see that women are setting themselves ever in so many ways and this is really good for the society," Kanuma noted.

He reiterates that women were at the receiving end of the country's recently violent era.

"I think it is good on another level, and that is women tended to suffer a lot of horrible crimes especially during the genocide. But let me tell you that the issue of electing them was more of something to do with merits, and they are going to feel meritorious as time goes on, and you can just see that it's going to be good," he said.

Kanuma said Rwandans are aware that women play a major role in every aspect of the society, including the various arms of government.

"The dynamics are simple, you have a society here that recognizes that you cannot possibly leave the other half of your population and leave them out of the political process. That is not possible. So, you have to put in place an enabling environment and encourage even more women to vie for high office. So, that is the only real dynamic here. If I may add if we carry out a comprehensive census today, I think you would find out that women actually might be outnumbering men. Now, no one has the exact figures as of now, but imagine leaving such a segment of the population out of high office, out of political decision-making, and it doesn't make sense. So, women have to be included, they have to be encouraged in all ways. And once they are encouraged and they come out, you will find out that they are actually as talented as men," Kanuma said.