The Elections are over. The results are in. The President-elect is known. Now is a good time to reflect on the election that was. Let’s talk about Dr. Alivera Mukabaramba.
Like the overwhelming majority of Rwandans, my vote went to the RPF’s presidential candidate, Paul Kagame. But I must admit that a part of me identified not so much with PPC as a political party but with its flag-bearer Mukabaramba.
I think I am not alone when I say that many women in Rwanda felt that Mukabaramba was carrying their banner. Women had finally arrived –in a symbolic yet important aspect. In her, we invited ourselves to the historically ‘Boys Club’ of occupiers of the highest office in the land.
What made the elections so intriguing in terms of this gender dynamic –and what is truly ironic –is that for it to be possible for a woman to run as a presidential aspirant, credit must first be given to the RPF for creating the inclusive environment that gave rise to women empowerment.While Mukabaramba as an individual symbolizes the strides taken in terms of women empowerment in this country, the RPF represents a philosophy of governance that favors gender equality. In other words, we do not have a chicken and egg scenario here. The latter caused the former.
But of course, Mukabaramba must also be acknowledged and given credit for entering uncharted territory. Her run was audacious because we still live in a society where not only men but many women saw her presidential aspirations as beyond what they consider ‘natural’ for a woman.
Speaking of hope, Mukabaramba’s presidential run is especially symbolically powerful. In the struggle for gender parity, it breaks the barriers of the possible. Many young boys and girls probably thought that to be president one needed to be male. For young girls particularly, the realm of the possible has been expanded.
Which brings me to some crucial questions; was she aware of the burden of history that she carried in her presidential campaign? Was she even aware of the opportunity for the future that she symbolized? Did Mukabaramba think about all these things before she ran? Did she notice the significance of the moment?
We might remember Mukabaramba’s dismal performance (only 0.4% of the total vote) as a great success, for not only does it present an opportunity for our girls but also for our country. The quality of our Presidents increases every time we have to choose not just from men, but from both sexes.
Let’s be clear. The issue is not about having a woman president because a woman president might just turn out to be hostile to the interests of women. The idea, however, is to increase the pool from which we choose our leaders.
Because being a woman does not guarantee that one will serve the interests of women, I voted for continuity. I voted for the party and president whose track record for gender equality is patent. I voted against a woman, to secure women interests.
Aline Irambona Mukabalisa is a member of Rwanda’s National Women’s Council