Gender-equality has been a widely held debate globally and a distant reality in Africa, where women play minor roles in all the major sectors of the economy including politics.
This trend is about to change as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has paved the way for African women to be given more representation in government. He named a new 20-member cabinet made up of 50% women.
Rwanda quickly announced on Thursday a new reform that slims down its cabinet to 26 ministers, 50% of whom are women.
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This adds to Rwanda’s global achievement of having the highest number of women in parliament – 61 per cent. An achievement they’ve held for nearly five years. The number of women legislators increased from the previous parliament’s 49 women representatives to 58 after the recent parliamentary election held this year.
Ethiopia is currently experiencing a wave of reforms championed by the new Prime Minister, who is breaking cultural and political barriers to build a country based on fairness and merit.
“Our women ministers will disprove the old adage that women can’t lead … This decision is the first in the history of Ethiopia and probably in Africa,” PM Abiy said, adding, “Women are less corrupt than men.”
For Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the elevation of women transforms countries and men need to play a role in putting women in positions of power.
“A higher number of women in decision-making roles have led to a decrease in gender discrimination and gender-based crimes … you [men] must play an important role in upholding the rights of women,” says Kagame on Friday.
Rwanda also ranks highest in labour participation among women but the statistics are not the true reflection of the situation in the country which has been led by Paul Kagame for 18 years.
Human rights, legal inequality and access to justice have plagued the country’s positive record on women’s rights and have exposed the glass ceiling that is just above the parliamentary level.
Women have had slim chances of getting to the top in Rwanda’s political hierarchy as the only woman to ever rise to the topmost position was Agathe Uwilingiyimana who was Prime Minister of Rwanda in 1993.
She was assassinated on April 7, 1994, by the presidential guard 14 hours after the assassination of President Habyarimana which commenced the genocide.
Two decades later, two Rwandan women have attempted to run against President Paul Kagame but ended up in jail for various reasons which are believed to be politically motivated.