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Rwanda celebrated another victory for gender representation on Nov. 5 when President Paul Kagame reshuffled his cabinet — and in the process, increased the number of female ministers from from 26 to 27.

As a result, the country now has more female ministers than male. Women now make up 52% of the cabinet.

“A higher number of women in decision-making roles have led to a decrease in gender discrimination and gender-based crimes,” Kagame said in a statement when Rwanda first named its gender-balanced cabinet in 2018.

Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians globally, according to a list compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The Inter-Parliamentary Union is a group made up of parliamentarians from across the globe.

The list showed that only two other nations had more women than men in parliament: Cuba (53.2% ) and Bolivia (53.1%).

It goes on to highlight a number of other countries with almost equal gender representation: Mexico (48.2%); Grenada (46.7%); Namibia (46.2%); Sweden (46.1%); Nicaragua (45.7%); Costa Rica (42%); and South Africa, which increased representation from 42.7% in February to 50% in May.

Gender-balanced governments don’t just promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“Gender diversity in public institutions is particularly crucial, given that these decision making bodies create the rules that affect people’s rights, behaviours, and life choices,” the OECD reports.

In other words, when there are more women in political office, policies that promote the rights of girls and women are prioritised.

Gender-balanced political leadership also allows women to take part in making decisions that affect their lives, such as land rights.

This seems to be what informed Kagame’s decision to make the Rwandan government even more inclusive. The president has urged the women in his cabinet to use their numbers to champion issues that affect girls and women, in particular human trafficking and sexual violence.

“In the past, women were few in decision-making positions. Now that your numbers are increasing in these positions, why don’t you use that?” he said after the reshuffle in 2018. “I do not mean that men should sit back, but let’s work together with those whom, in the past, were refused the right to serve and solve such issues.”


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By Lerato Mogoatlhe