Gender Balance and the Meanings of Women in Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda

Authored by: Jennie E. Burnet

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Political Transitions, Transitional Justice
Country: Rwanda
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2008
Citation: Burnet, Jennie E. "Gender Balance and the Meanings of Women in Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda." African Affairs 107, no. 428 (2008): 361-386.

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Across Africa, many countries have taken initiatives to increase the participation and representation of women in governance. Yet it is unclear what meaning these initiatives have in authoritarian, single-party states like Rwanda. Since seizing power in 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front has taken many steps to increase the participation of women in politics such as creating a Ministry of Gender, organizing women’s councils at all levels of government, and instituting an electoral system with reserved seats for women in the national parliament. This article explores the dramatic increase in women’s participation in public life and representation in governance and the increasing authoritarianism of the Rwandan state under the guise of ‘democratization’. The increased political participation of women in Rwanda represents a paradox in the short term: as their participation has increased, women’s ability to influence policy making has decreased. In the long term, however, increased female representation in government could prepare the path for their meaningful participation in a genuine democracy because of a transformation in political subjectivity.