College - Author 1
College of Liberal Arts
Department - Author 1
Interdisciplinary Studies in Liberal Arts Department
Degree Name - Author 1
BA in Interdisciplinary Studies
Dawn Neill, College of Liberal Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies Department
This critical analysis will investigate whether Rwanda’s glorified representation of women in government positions truly serves the women in their society or rather the agenda of the men in power. Rwanda is frequently hailed as the prime example for African feminism due to their 2008 parliamentary elections. The 2013 Rwandan Parliamentary elections ushered in a record -breaking sixty-four percent of seats for women candidates, making Rwanda the top country for women in politics. In comparison, women make up a global average of 23.8 percent of parliament members as of June 2018 (W.E. Forum, 2017). Their representation of women in government is a smokescreen of false progress in order to continue perpetuating the culture of oppression over the women in Rwanda. Researching Rwanda and its culture surrounding the submission of women under the premise of feminist social theory will allow me to observe gender and its relation to power both at an individual level and within their social structure. I will also research the future social repercussions on African feminism for lauding faux feminist representation and progress. The issue with utilizing Rwanda, a country that uses massive female representation to mask the men holding and exercising the power behind the scenes, is that it creates a precedent for every other African country to follow. All of Rwanda’s women’s rights movements and progress were controlled and allowed by the current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. After suffering the tragic and violent consequences of the Tutsi genocide in 1994, the economy was left in shreds. Following the 100 days of slaughter in 1994, Rwandan society was left in chaos. The death toll was between 800,000 and 1 million. Immediately following the genocide, Rwanda's population of 5.5 million to 6 million was 60 to 70 percent female (Warner, 2016). They could simply not rebuild Rwanda with male labor alone, causing President Kagame to begin to champion women’s rights in order for faster recovery and growth. Though it was women’s labor that rebuilt the country, Rwanda is not considered inherently feminist. The only call for women’s rights or equality that led to change in a few policies was led and controlled by President Kagame to further his economic agenda. The only true feminist progress made has been the shallow representation of the marginalized women in their culture in government positions. Due to this façade of women’s rights, the culture surrounding the subordination of women has not changed. While any women in powerful positions can be seen as progress, one must question if it is truly progress if the women are used as pawns and have no autonomy in those positions. I look to challenge the definition of the “gender equity” that the international community lauds Rwanda for in favor of a more holistic definition. Utilizing these women as pawns is meant to placate the feminist movement within their respective countries—causing the movements to falsely assume they are making progress, while continuing to implement the agenda of the men in power. Rwanda can be seen as a case study of how African politics could change in the near future. As women’s rights are becoming at the forefront of global interest and one of the U.N.’s missions (U.N., 2013), countries that align themselves with the advancement of women’s rights will reap the aid and benefits from the Global North. Rwanda has found a way to seem as they are adhering to the advancement of women’s rights while, in reality, they fully intend on keeping their archaic traditional values.