Rwanda is known across the world for having more female legislators in Parliament than any other country. This is excellent progress, and Rwanda is aiming to both maintain this enviable track record, as well as seek to ensure that this groundwork is used to further national development and the advancement of women’s rights and issues.
This is why in August 2018, the National Women’s Council, Pro-Femme Twese Hamwe, the Gender Monitoring Office, and UNDP jointly organized and hosted a workshop for aspiring women candidates preparing for the September Parliamentary elections. This was a training workshop for women, by women. Three hundred and twenty-six (326) female political candidates (over 60% of the total final candidates) from across Rwanda and across all party lines gathered in Kigali for the training.
The goals of the event were to develop the capacities of these women to run successful political campaigns and, later, serve as effective elected representatives in Parliament.
This event was part of the Government of Rwanda and UNDP’s Deepening Democracy through Strengthening Citizen Participation and Accountable Governance programme, which includes a range of initiatives aimed at improving public participation in governance while ensuring that public institutions are accountable, transparent, effective, and responsive to people.
Participants in the training covered various topics, including the management of public information, public speaking, campaigning, media engagement, and policy issues to be considered in developing candidate manifestos.
The Chief Gender Monitor, Ms Rose Rwabuhihi, urged candidates to put citizen’s issues at the forefront of their agenda with dedicated attention to women both during the elections campaigns and after, when serving as legislators in Parliament. She also implored candidates to help build a country where women can thrive and have equal opportunities to realise their potential.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the workshop, however, was the opportunity it offered for women from all political parties and backgrounds to come together and explore issues that uniquely affect women. This shared understanding will hopefully contribute to a common voice in the next Parliament that staunchly promotes and defends the rights and interests of all citizens, including women. This workshop also contributed to reinforce networking amongst women politicians operating in various sectors and experience sharing.
While the final election results are yet to be released, the preliminary results point to the high possibility of Rwanda having a parliament with more than 60% women, which would help to maintain Rwanda’s global leadership position in terms of women representation in parliament.