The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global parliamentary network, has hailed Rwanda for having empowered and encouraged women in politics.
In a statement issued on the International Women’s Day celebrations, the IPU gave an example of Rwanda which they said has beaten the target set by the United Nations by over 30 percent.
“While there were some impressive gains made in 2008, particularly in Africa, where Rwanda’s lower house elected a majority of women members, more needs to be done in those countries where women are largely absent from decision-making bodies,” the statement quotes IPU president Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab as saying.
In the 2008 parliamentary elections, Rwanda broke the world record by attaining 56.2 percent women representation and subsequently elected a woman Speaker.
In the latest analysis by IPU, women now hold 18.3 percent of seats in parliament through last year’s elections and appointments in 154 countries across the world.
It represents a 60 percent improvement in the number of women representatives in parliament since 1995, when women held only 11.3 percent of seats.
According to the statement, fifteen percent of the 264 parliamentary chambers have reached 30 percent and above.
Forty percent of those chambers are in Europe; one third in Africa while 23 percent are in Latin America.
While Rwanda is also ranked top, developing countries in Africa have averagely registered tremendous improvement in women representation with Angola having elected more than 37 percent of women last year in its first election since 1992.
The Rwandan Constitution prescribes a mandatory 30 percent of women in decision making positions in all organs of the country.
Other southern African countries like Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Tanzania, have elected more than 25 percent of women into parliament.
“The southern African region has made some significant progress in terms of women’s access to politics in the past decade, and women have been important drivers of change,” the IPU president added.
At the end of 2008, women presided over 31 of the 264 parliamentary chambers worldwide, constituting 11.7 percent.
Of these, 13 are women Speakers in Europe, ten in the USA, six in Africa, and one woman Speaker both in Pakistan and Israel.
The lowest return rate for women in 2008 was registered in the Pacific Island States, at less than four percent on average.
Of the 20 nations with the smallest number of women in their parliaments, nine are Arab or Islamic.
For instance, according to the statement, there are no women in the parliaments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
In a related development, President Paul Kagame was on the International Women’s Day awarded the ‘Grand Cordon into the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers’ medal by Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf for his role in promoting women participation in parliament.