The Sunday Age published an article this weekend by Sarah Boseley from the Guardian about women in politics in Rwanda. By law women are required to fill 30 per cent of government seats. Rwandan women have gone further and now hold 56 per cent of seats. Rwanda is the only country where women make up 50 per cent or more of parliament.
Chris McGreal has also written on this and notes that:
The women MPs include former rebels and genocide survivors, war widows and peasant farmers… The heads of the Supreme Court and the police are also women, as are a majority of the country’s prison governors.
Before 1994, women held only around one in five parliamentary seats. The genocide changed everything. When the killing ended there were twice as many women as men in Rwanda, and while the gap has since narrowed, more than a third of households are still headed by women. Women also make up 55% of the workforce and own about 40% of businesses.
Both articles herald the benefits of the increase of women in parliament. Women now have rights to inherit and own land and property, rape and domestic violence are seen as serious crimes and contraception is more available to women.
This got me thinking about how those statistics compare to Australian figures. See the table below for a brief breakdown of the larger Women in National Parliaments table by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This is a breakdown of both upper and lower house.
|Rank||Country||Lower or single House||Upper House or Senate|
|Elections||Seats||Women||% W||Elections||Seats||Women||% W|
|1||Rwanda||9 2008||80||45||56.3%||10 2003||26||9||34.6%|
|15||New Zealand||11 2008||122||41||33.6%||—||—||—||—|
|31||Afghanistan||9 2005||249||68||27.3%||9 2005||102||23||22.5%|
|31||Australia||11 2007||150||41||27.3%||11 2007||76||27||35.5%|
Some things to consider when you look at this table – according to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website:
- Women make up just over half of Australia’s total population.
- In 2006, women accounted for 54.8 per cent of all tertiary education students and 47.5 per cent of all students enrolled in vocational education and training courses.
- The majority of women were enrolled in management and commerce, society and culture, and food, hospitality and personal services courses.
Sounds promising but consider this, also from the DFAT website:
- Australian women hold around 36 per cent of senior executive positions.
- In the private sector, women hold only around 12 per cent of management job and only 9 per cent of private board directorships.
One last thought – how many female Rwandan politicians get media coverage about their hair styles?