President Paul Kagame has said that Rwanda’s choice of empowering women is “simply common sense”.
He was speaking yesterday at the Aspen Institute in Colorado, US, ahead of the US-African Leaders’ Summit.
Rwanda has the highest women representation of any parliament in the world, constituting an unprecedented 64 per cent of the Lower House.
Women are also strongly represented in other national and local institutions, well above the constitutional threshold of 30 per cent that either gender is guaranteed in decision-making organs.
Speaking during an interactive session, Kagame addressed Rwanda’s transformation following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, saying “We came out determined and committed to reverse the situation. We looked each other in the eyes and asked one thing: who benefitted from Genocide?
“Not one single person or family benefitted from the Genocide. We could choose to work towards a common good or the common destruction that we had already experienced.”
The Genocide left more than a million people dead and shattered the country’s economy and social fabric.
Addressing leaders and members of the Aspen Institute, the President spoke of Rwanda's progress and challenges, pointing out that the Genocide was a lesson for all Rwandans.
He attributed the country’s phenomenal recovery to the resilience of the people of Rwanda. “For us, the question was what happens if we fail to achieve? There was no alternative. What Rwandans have achieved is because of the resilience of the people. Other people can help but no one will carry our burden for us.”
The interactive session was moderated by Elliot Gerson, the executive vice president of the Aspen Institute, who described Rwanda as “a country of progress born out of suffering.”
Gerson pointed out that 90 per cent of Rwandan children are in school, while the country has recorded one of the fastest growth rates in Africa, with life expectancy remarkably increasing by 20 years in recent years.
Answering a question from former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Kagame spoke of the expectations for this week’s US-Africa summit.
“We should not be going to repeat the same speeches but we should come out with something real. We need to be partners, where everyone is a stakeholder and benefits.”
Nearly 50 African Heads of State are expected to attend the three-day meeting with US President Barack Obama.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organisation with a mission to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues.
Yesterday’s interactive session was attended by several policymakers, including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.
President Kagame was later hosted to a dinner by Marc Holtzman, Chairman of Meridian Capital, and Samuel Robson Walton, Chairman of Walmart.
Also present were other business leaders, who discussed the investment opportunities that exist in Rwanda.