President Paul Kagame has called for fair women representation for greater gender-inclusive parliaments, underscoring the role of women in building a resilient and peaceful world. He made the observation on Tuesday, October 11, while officiating at the opening of the 145th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and its related meetings, being held in Kigali from October 11 to 15. The assembly is taking place under the theme “Gender equality and gender-sensitive parliaments as drivers of change for a more resilient and peaceful world”. All over the world, Kagame said, parliaments exist to protect the interest of citizens. This objective cannot be met without the full and active participation of women in our parliaments, especially in leadership positions. “Despite steady gains, inequality between women and men continues to be widespread. Setting quotas takes us a step closer to equal representation, but does not address the full spectrum of inequalities in parliaments and in our society at large,” he observed. “Gender equality is better achieved when we acknowledge that it is a right for everyone everywhere. Women are the backbone of resilient and peaceful societies. We need strong legal and policy frameworks in place, with an emphasis on implementation and results,” he said. The President told delegates that in Rwanda, women played a critical role in the liberation struggle and that they remain a fundamental part of Rwanda’s transformation journey, with many participating in peacekeeping operations across the African continent. Still talking about tackling gender inequalities, he said that context matters, and there are no quick-fix solutions to build inclusive communities. “One thing, however, is certain. The fight against gender inequality is a shared responsibility, and men have a duty to speak up and not just be bystanders. This is particularly important to combat the negative perceptions of some men who sustain the status quo,” he observed. The Speaker of Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, said that the theme of this Assembly serves as a “is a wake-up call to parliamentary institutions to reflect and take stock on current state of gender equality and see how we can change dynamics to advance gender mainstreaming in the political and economic spheres of our respective countries as we lose a lot due to gender inequality practices.” “In Rwanda, promoting gender equality and women in leadership is a constitutional imperative. There is a strong political commitment at the highest level and adequate measures are taken at all levels to boost gender equality and women political participation, as well as women empowerment,” she said. Rwanda leads the way for gender-inclusive parliaments According to information from IPU, many women around the world still lack basic human rights and face discrimination and gender-based violence, indicating that the world’s parliaments are no exception. With a global average of 25 per cent women, most parliaments remain male-dominated, and women MPs are often under-represented on decision-making bodies, IPU said. Meanwhile, Rwanda leads the way when it comes to gender equality in parliament. In 2008, the Rwanda Chamber of Deputies was the first elected national parliament with more women than men, IPU observed. With the proportion of MPs who are women standing at 61.25 per cent today, well above the current global average, Rwanda has been at the top of the IPU’s monthly ranking of women in national parliaments for years. Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary General, said that “indeed throughout my career at the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we have worked closely with the Parliament of Rwanda to build one of the most forward-looking and gender-sensitive institutions among our 178 member parliaments. Rwanda, he remarked, has a forward-looking constitution that is very gender-sensitive that “has taken this country to the top of the lead table in numerous measures of gender equality, political participation and women’s and girls’ empowerment. “But we should make no mistake. No country can claim to have achieved full gender equality today, and no parliament can claim to be 100 per cent gender sensitive,” he said. “So, at this assembly, we will be looking to identifying ways to accelerate progress to achieve our shared goal of gender equality and to ensure that all women and girls fully enjoy rights and freedoms on an equal footing with men and boys, allowing them to lead dignifying lives, free from all forms of discrimination, mistreatment and violence, in control of their own bodies, and following their own minds,” he indicated.