Eight zimbabwean legislators and three parliament clerks are in the country to assess how Rwanda has managed to have more women parliamentarians and what their home system can do to implement a new constitution that orders equal opportunity for men and women in parliament.
The legislators have been touring Parliamentary Buildings and asking questions to understand how they conduct their work.
They will also visit the country’s gender promotion bodies such as the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, the Gender Monitoring Office, the National Women Council, as well as Profemme-Twesehamwe, an umbrella organisation of women associations.
The delegation’s leader, Senator Monica Mutsvangwa, said they would like to learn as much as they could from Rwanda in order to implement the constitutional requirement of equal representation back home.
“What we have come here to understand is how Rwanda has managed the electoral system to bring in more women and how the increase in the number of women in Parliament has been sustained,” she told The New Times yesterday.
With 31.5 per cent women in parliament for a country in which women make 54 per cent of the population, Mutsvangwa, who also chairs the Women parliamentary caucus in Zimbabwe, said her country is missing out by not maximising the participation of women.
“Women are ] good managers and any leader or any country which leaves behind 54 per cent of their population would be doing a grave mistake,” she said shortly after attending a presentation on the roles and functioning of the Parliament of Rwanda.
Rwanda, which holds a world record of women representation with 64 per cent occupying seats in the Lower House, has deliberate policies that enable women to acquire substantial seats in Parliament.
The Constitution says that either sex shall occupy not less than 30 per cent of all decision-making organs and exclusively reserves 24 seats in the Lower Chamber for women representatives.
Beacon of gender balance
With 64 per cent of seats in its Lower Chamber and 38 per cent in the Senate occupied by women, Rwanda remains a beacon for promoters of gender balance in the world.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women representation in the Lower House still averages 21.3 per cent, 18.1 per cent in the Upper House and 20.9 per cent in both Houses.
“We hope we will definitely get there (at gender balance) and we are fighting very hard. It’s about implementation and that’s what we want to learn,” Mutsvangwa said.
Senator Watchy Sibanda, chairperson of Zimbabwe’s parliamentary Thematic Committee on Gender and Development, agreed that implementing the written law of gender parity in his home country remains difficult.
“The most challenging issue in terms of having women parliamentarians in Zimbabwe is that there is no political will and women aren’t supportive of each other as women parliamentarians or in any other position of power,” he said.
The Zimbabwean legislators will interact with executive members of the Forum for Rwanda Women Parliamentarians, meet the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda (a woman), and attend the plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies before wrapping up their visit.