Gender Equality for Political Science

My name is Hridayam Agarwal, and I am a senior at Northeastern University, where I major in Political Science and Economics with a minor in International Affairs. I believe that one thing that ties all my internships, extra-curricular activities and academic curriculum together is my passion for making a difference and practicing human rights. My productivity is best channeled when I’m working towards something that creates human impact and so, writing about Rwanda’s patriarchal break through is an opportunity I did not want to miss upon. Even as one of the poorest nations in the world, I am intrigued by how Rwanda presents an extraordinary case in political science by earning more remarkable milestones for gender equality and accelerating sustainable development than most countries on a global spectrum.

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Post the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, the call for equality was led by Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda. Rwanda was so broken and demolished that it could not be rebuild by just men’s labor. As John Stuart Mill once said, “When society requires to be rebuilt, there is no use in attempting to rebuild it on the old plan”. Kagame did exactly that. He realized that to re-establish his nation, he needed to utilize all the talent in the country and give women the chance to be in the spotlight and show how worthwhile their contributions can be. Given that after the genocide, Rwanda’s population was 70 percent female, it seemed like a perfect fit. Kagame’s efforts to integrate women into the reconstruction process to protect their rights, help them attain equal education opportunities and gain ownership of property, and sustain the national economy was outstanding.

This chapter is going to focus on how the Rwandan Genocide reshaped the idea of patriarchy and affected the nation’s sovereignty, by tracing the steps taken by women to reach their positions of power. This chapter will start by providing a short examination on women’s status pre-genocide, followed by the leadership roles that women took in politics post genocide. This chapter will provide an in-depth analysis on women’s social and political roles, the use of soft power, and the women-led organizations that helped mothers and vulnerable women rebuild their lives post genocide. It will also touch upon men’s post-genocide perceptions and the role of education in challenging gender stereotypes. A chapter on women is significant because it shows how a ‘dead nation’ rose from genocide to become the most representative place for women in the world.

From women being proclaimed as just mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters, to being representatives and spokespersons for Rwanda, they have come a long way. A chapter on how women broke through patriarchy post-genocide sends a important message to the entire world on the powerful force that women have when they support each other. Being subjected to a role based on traditional values does not define who and how a person should be. We’re always being told to break out of the ordinary, cherish our individuality and think outside the box. Aren’t these the premises that Rwanda re-built itself on? Women are the key to empowering other women, and Rwandan women taking political office to wage peace should be the biggest instigator for women around the world to feel empowered. I believe that learning and exploring the history of a nation that went through a genocide, dramatic changes in its demographics, bloodshed and mayhem, and seeing how women emerged as the powerful forces is unbelievably empowering.

These Rwandan women, who were formerly seen as victims and survivors of the genocide, who were left to be vulnerable and fragile, played an impressive role in upheaving Rwanda. They broke past patriarchal norms by changing the gender roles. In pre-genocide Rwanda, it was almost unheard of for women to own land or take a job outside the home. It is commendable to see how most of these women who had never been educated or raised with the expectations of a career, had risen to such great heights. The purpose of this chapter is to raise awareness on how ideas about gender came from Rwanda itself, not from outside. Usually, notions of gender equality appear to be imported from the west rather than indigenous to the local cultures and region. With so many imbalanced governments in the world today, I would like to see if Rwanda’s women-led political and social model can be replicated in other African nations.

Moreover, I would like to examine whether Rwanda’s seat quota would work in nations globally. The Rwandan women created a model of peace, security and leadership, and it just shows that when women don’t lead, countries lose. Without vigorous efforts to realize women’s basic human rights, several ethnic minorities, marginalized religious groups and other populations remain underrepresented even today. While there are several studies, debates and research papers on the Rwandan Genocide, there are comparatively lesser written on the role that women played in refurbishing Rwanda. Researchers and writers usually, while discussing gender equality and representation of women in government, cite three countries as exemplary: Finland, Sweden, and Canada. However, post the Rwandan genocide, they can no longer boast for having the highest global female representation in parliament.

Many remain unaware that Rwanda has advanced significantly in terms of gender and power, specifically in terms of the number of women in elected political positions. Since this chapter critiques women’s patriarchal break through post-genocide, the secondary research data will be qualitative in nature. Qualitative research methods have been proven to be more compatible with gender related research, as it allows for a deeper understanding of the underlying structures in society with gender roles at the core. This chapter will include and analyze interviews that were conducted with Rwandan women and men who held leadership positions in government, as well as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in Rwanda. While the organizations vary in mandate, featuring different parts of the post-genocide patriarchal break-through, they have provided this paper with elaborate, distinct insights.

Civil society organizations that have helped rebuild lives and communities in Rwanda will also serve as resourceful research units. Documentaries, case studies, and ethnographic reports conducted by researchers who have stayed, visited and worked in Rwanda are also going to be used as trustworthy sources. Collecting data from multiple sources is key to ensuring the high quality of this chapter’s findings. Getting varying answers, even if they’re contradictory, provides for a rich vein of material. The purpose of the literature review is to compare and contrasts claims and arguments made in this chapter, especially when there are remarks on historical contexts. This chapter will present relevant research studies that are both, empirical and theoretical in nature. For instance, Rao and Kelleher (2005) emphasize on how “change must occur at both the personal and social level for gender equality to be realized”.

They believe that making inequitable changes to social systems and institutions is a prerequisite for addressing the root causes of gender inequality. In Rwanda, women were encouraged to take up non-traditional political, economical and social roles that forced them to think of themselves differently. Rao and Kelleher’s theory can be used to explain Kagame’s need to to rebuild a new political model by giving women an opportunity to have their voices heard and represented in local, state and national affairs. Moving forward, this chapter is going to establish a critical and clear connection between women’s inclusion in society and politics, and the increasing prosperity and stability in Rwanda post genocide.

Devlin and Elgie (2008) argue that women’s issues, including issues of equality and education in Rwanda, are more likely to be addressed through an increased female participation in politics. Joseph S. Nye’s concept of ‘Soft power’ is based on a persuasive approach, that typically involves the use of economic or cultural influence. Devlin and Elgie’s argument in conjunction with Nye’s concept of soft power will be explored in this chapter to help strengthen the argument of how valuable and critical Rwandan women’s contributions are to their political economy. Moreover, Hogg (2010) emphasizes on how women have been subject to the patriarchal structure of the traditional Rwandan society, and how the gender-based division of labor was instilled at an early age. Hogg’s critique on the relationship that men and women shared on a social level, whether it was in regards to how dependent women were on their husbands or how strongly underrepresented women were in politics, can be compared to the post-genocide social atmosphere and changing political demographics in Rwanda.

Furthermore, Clark (2005) highlights that a country’s institution influences the effectiveness of the gender quota i.e. the the country’s democratic nature influences the effectiveness of gender quotas. Juxtaposed to her views, Barnes & Burchard (2012) argue that women seize their opportunities through political transitions, which empowers them to strive for more representation. This chapter will explore how Rwandan women, through the amalgamation of both these theories, reached to their position in power. While designing this chapter, I came across a few complications. Firstly, the genocide and subsequent aftermath was, has, and will always remain as a very sensitive topic in Rwanda. This very sensitivity and tact plays a major barrier in the data collection process. The world admirably views Rwanda’s reconciliation and reconstruction efforts but, women’s motivation to lead the country seems to be more about choosing survival then being resilient.

Secondly, language barriers in developing nations play an important, common role in hindering interviews and research data sets. Words can be lost in translation, in the fear of speaking too much, or being overwhelmed by the interviewers questioning. Thirdly, not being able to conduct direct interviews prevents me from getting an accurate screening for questions based on gender, age, or race. There is also no way of knowing how relaxing and comfortable the setting for interviewees had been. The emotions and real effects of the genocide and the reconciliation would also have been better represented during direct, face-to-face interviews. Since this chapter aims to identify shared perceptions of women’s participation and patriarchal break-through, this study will also not be able to bring forward the voice of every individual. 

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Gender Equality For Political Science. (2022, Feb 01). Retrieved November 29, 2022 , from
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