With more women in parliament, we have higher expectations

I have wanted to write this piece since the day I found out our parliament was preparing to pass a bill that reduces maternity leave for the Rwandan woman. Could it be possible that this was coming from the body that boasts a women majority?
Aline Akintore.
Aline Akintore.

I have wanted to write this piece since the day I found out our parliament was preparing to pass a bill that reduces maternity leave for the Rwandan woman. Could it be possible that this was coming from the body that boasts a women majority?

I admit our ladies have drawn a lot of ire over this decision (and possibly others) but it is hard to keep silent over some of these resolutions. As a young lady, I feel strongly that these women owe it to us to protect our interests and address our problems.

The problems of women are best understood by women, right? Women representation has certainly re-configured policy and added new dimensions to leadership but I can’t seem to gauge if a woman majority (in the House) has a linear correlation with policy outputs regarding women. Indeed some resolutions are quite curious…

The amendment to the labour code that cuts fully paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 6 weeks is one such resolution (It is interesting that this amendment comes at a time when the Ministry of Health is campaigning for mothers to exclusively breastfeed for at least six months!) I can safely say our women majority has failed to make national legislature more parent-friendly!

The justification for this change struck me as feeble considering its Rwanda’s next generation in question; I agree that it’s imperative to reformulate what are seen as ‘women’s problems’ to the broader issue of gender equality but only within reasonable context – until men can breastfeed, and fish grow tails, maybe such resolutions should come with spelled-out solutions.  For example the amendment could have come with an extra requirement for childcare facilities at all workplaces, the result being happy mothers, happy employers and happy babies.

There’s also the delicate topic of prostitution. I am all for Rwandan Agaciro which is why I think it makes more sense to make it illegal to buy sexual services or pimp prostitutes as opposed to criminalising prostitution –  Kill the demand, and the supply might die with it. 51% of these ladies have HIV/AIDS and yet shy away from treatment for fear of their vocation being discovered; in addition, serial killers are targeting these women who cannot report known suspects for fear of going to jail. All Rwandan women need to feel protected no matter their trade –our female parliamentarians should be advocating for them as well.

Don’t read this as ungratefulness for all the hard work over the years. I brag all the time about the 56% of women in our parliament, putting us in first place globally. It’s mandatory for women to take up 30% of parliamentary seats and the results of this law are widespread: they have addressed domestic violence and women’s rights in divorce, pushed to bridge the gender education gap and revoked laws that prohibited women to own or inherit property. Interestingly, except the gender-based violence law, most of these significant laws were passed before women became the majority in the parliament.

I recognise the fact that the Rwandan woman has moved to the forefront of building this nation but maybe our female representatives should take advantage of their growing numbers to serve more aggressively in the interest of Rwandan women; it seems as if our emancipation isn’t as correlated to the number of women in legislature as it is to the commitment of the president and the government at large. I look forward to any thoughts and clarifications on these issues…

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