As a young female in today’s world, I see efforts for social reform all around me, yet when it comes down to it, change is slow. This, however, has not been the case in Rwanda. In 1994 Rwanda experienced a devastating mass genocide. Within 100 days they had lost almost 1 million people, the majority being men. While this was catastrophic for their communities and social structure, it blew the doors wide open for change.
In the months following the genocide, Rwanda found its population at 60% to 70% women. With many of its critical positions now vacant, Rwanda needed its women in ways that had never been allowed before. Suddenly women were able to pursue careers, open their own bank accounts, and more importantly, run for office! Today, women make up 64% of Rwanda’s national lower house legislators. For comparison, in the US, women only hold 19% of the house.
Unfortunately, many women currently still face discrimination at home. While Rwanda has made leaps and bounds in political and economic equality, social evolution has come more slowly. As a result, women must now walk a tight rope between domestic expectations and their governmental and business duties. It will be interesting and informative to see how social norms catch up to practical realities.
Rwanda’s transformation is an inspirational study in how perseverance, necessity, and competence can change the course of discrimination for good.