Last month’s election in Rwanda brought a record-setting 64% of women into Rwanda’s parliament. This is even more astounding considering the fact that only 21.4% of parliamentarians worldwide are women with the average for Sub-Saharan Africa being 21.9% (IPU 2013). It is both true that Rwanda has a reserved seats quota of 30% for women and that electoral quotas, and especially reserved seats, do increase the number of women in parliament overall; but rarely do we see countries outperforming their quotas so significantly as Rwanda has done in the past. Thus, we must applaud Rwanda for its continuous commitment to gender equality in politics and as a continuous example of a country not afraid to trust women in politics.
However, we should not let Rwanda rest on its laurels but need to ask: where do female parliamentarians go from here? Do they occupy strategic and influential positions in the policy making process? Are they party leaders? And most importantly, are they present in the highest echelon of political power – the Executive? To date, no woman has either occupied the position of president or prime minister of Rwanda and past cabinets have commonly assigned only one third of cabinet positions to women (see World Bank). Thus the overwhelming number of women in parliament so far has not been translated into an equally impressive presence of women in the Executive (see Rwanda Government). The Executive glass ceiling in Rwanda still seems to be in place. Yet, women must occupy these positions of strategic power if they want to truly shape the course of a country. In the end, only when women occupy positions of influence and power in both the Legislature and the Executive, we will truly achieve gender equality in politics.