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Rwanda: First Female Speaker of the Parliament

(Oct. 9, 2008) On October 6, 2008, newly elected members of the Parliament of Rwanda voted into office the country's first female Speaker, Ms. Mukantabama Rose. With the swearing-in of 45 female deputies out of the 80 members of the Chamber of Deputies on the same date, Rwanda also officially became the first country with a female-majority parliament. Reportedly, the average rate of female participation in parliaments worldwide is only 17 percent, and so the Rwandan representation was recently praised as a milestone by both the African Union and the United Nations. (Kezio-Musoke David, Female-Majority House Elects Speaker After Historic Poll, THE NATION (Nairobi), Oct. 6, 2008, available at

The Rwandan Constitution of 2003 established a quota of 24 seats for women in the Chamber of Deputies (art. 76) and a quota of 30 percent women in the 26-member Senate (art. 82). The new Constitution also includes, under the chapter on fundamental principles, “the building of a State governed by the rule of law, a pluralistic democratic government, equality of all Rwandans and between women and men reflected by attributing to women at least thirty per cent (30%) of posts in decision making organs” (art. 9, item 4). (The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, Constitutions of the Countries of the World online subscription database, (last visited Oct. 8, 2008).)

According to an article on the landmark election in the Kenyan newspaper THE NATION, one factor in the high level of women's participation in Rwanda's legislative and executive branches (36 per cent of the Cabinet posts, including leadership of the ministries of commerce, agriculture, infrastructure, foreign affairs and information) is the 1994 genocide and subsequent period of retributions, which left the country with a 60:40 female to male population ratio. It seems that initially by default, because of the large number of men killed in the ethnic slaughter and thousands more in prison for war crimes or living outside Rwanda as refugees, Rwandan women came to play a bigger role in business and politics. Cabinet Minister Monique Nsanzabaganwa was quoted as saying that even though the population is now evening out, women still outnumber men by a rate of 52 to 48 and make up 55 per cent of the workforce. (David, supra.)