The percentage of women in the Rwandan parliament will fall slightly from 63.8 per cent to 61.2 per cent following the recently-concluded legislative elections, but Rwanda will still remain the leading country with most women in parliament.
The National Electoral Commission (NEC) on Wednesday released the preliminary but nearly conclusive list of the 80 Members of Parliament-elect, 49 of whom are women.
Rwanda ranks ahead of Cuba which has 53.2 per cent women in Parliament and Bolivia which comes third with 53.1 women parliamentarians.
Civil society and advocates of women rights say majority women in parliament should translate into legislation that favours improved conditions for women and good policies that will uplift the ordinary Rwandan woman.
Critics however say women have not benefited greatly from the majority representation in the national assembly, and that the fourth parliament should do better to deliver on their needs.
Josephine Uwamariya, the country director of Action Aid Rwanda says that female legislators in the fourth parliament should stand in the gap and address issues that affect women for the majority representation to translate into something tangible.
“We want the forthcoming parliament to tackle issues that affect the ordinary women in a tangible way, including genderised roles — the unpaid and unvalued care work,” said Ms Uwamariya.
She added: “These are serious issues that affect the productivity of women. They work for many hours, taking care of the home but because they don’t have ‘jobs,’ their husbands say ‘they don’t do anything’.”
Ms Uwamariya said that female legislators have to take a lead role in introducing laws and policies that ease the burden on women, largely due to the patriarchal nature of the society.
“There is a need for gender-responsive public services such as early childhood centres, affordable and accessible cooking energy and easy access to clean water so that women don’t have to walk long distances. This can reduce the burden on the women. Female MPs are expected to play a role in this,” said Ms Uwamariya.
The presence of more women in parliament should not necessarily translate into improved advocacy on women issues.
“There is an assumption that the many women in parliament are there to represent women. When they get to Parliament, they represent all citizens. The laws they pass benefit all Rwandans,” said the chairperson of Transparency International –Rwanda, Marie Immaculee Ingabire.
She however challenged the fourth parliament to rise above the notion that they just rubberstamp government decisions and cannot hold the government accountable.
“It is my hope and that of of many citizens that the forthcoming parliament will do better on accountability than the outgoing parliament,” said Ms Ingabire.
Some 6.6 million Rwandans voted in the poll which observers and NEC say was largely peaceful.
President Paul Kagame’s ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front-Inkotanyi and five small parties it allied with got 74 per cent of the votes, taking 40 seats while Social Democratic Party got five seats and Liberal Party four seats.
Opposition party Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and PS Imberakuri got two seats.
African Union Observers said the vote was incident-free but exiled Rwandan opposition politicians say the results were pre-determined and that competition was lacking.
Gilbert Mwenedata, a 2013 independent Parliamentary contender who also attempted to run in last year’s Presidential election but was blocked by the electoral commission said that the parliamentary elections were ‘neither free nor fair’.