Research studies

Gender Inequality in Rwanda as a Post-Genocide Society

Prepared by the researcher :  Sarah Ali Elsamman Mohamed – University of Bamberg – Faculty of Social Sciences, Economics, and Business Administration – HS: Politische Soziologie II: Political Inequality

Democratic Arab Center


The Rwandan genocide is one of the political phenomena in the African region that have been analyzed in social and political science studies. In this paper, the various impacts of this massacre on gender inequality are addressed through the social role and congruence theories. With a timeline of the made speeches, statements, and remarks by the president of Rwanda and the first lady, the research illustrates the diverse consequences of the genocide regarding gender norms, women role/empowerment in the reconstruction phase, and the policy agenda that affects the empowerment of the Rwandan women. Using the content analysis is to examine the configurations of the speeches’ discursive environment and its relation to the socio-political transformation.


List of Illustrations and Tables

List of Abbreviations

  1. Introduction

1.1. The propose of the study, thesis statement

1.2. Research question & its relevance

  1. Literature Review
  2. Theoretical Framework

3.1. Social role theory

3.1.1. Origins of the division of labor

3.1.2. Gender roles

3.2. Congruence theory

3.3. Research hypothesis

3.4. Research method: content ynalysis

  1. Operationalization

4.1. Research design

4.2. Content Analysis framework: sampling technique, unit of analysis & coding scheme

  1. Empirical Analysis and Discussion

5.1. The evolution of gender dimensions in the Rwandan national context:

5.1.1. The post-conflict society:  women as genocide survivors

5.1.2. Empowerment of women as individuals: at a domestic level

5.2. Gender mainstreaming in new Rwanda: gender and social inclusion

5.2.1. Greater Access to Education: eliminating gender-based discrimination

5.2.2. Women participating and leading within the civil society: Human Right and Gacaca Jurisdictions, socio-economic initiatives

5.3. Women in the process of “Democratization” Rwanda:

5.3.1. The concept of good governance and gendering Rwanda

5.3.2. Legal, Institutional mechanisms and long-term policies: gender equity in a global discourse

  1. Conclusion

Appendix A: theoretical illustrations

Appendix B: list of speeches, remarks, and interviews


List of Illustrations and Tables

Table 1: Content Analysis coding scheme…….. ……………………………………………………………………18

Figure 1: social role theory: gender roles guide sex differences and similarities through biosocial processes………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….27

Figure 2: research hypotheses within the theoretical framework…………………………………………..27

  1. Introduction

1.1. The propose of the study, thesis statement

African women’s participation in the political sphere in the past decades has witnessed an outgrowth in several countries. Factors that contribute to this change are quotas systems, global gender discourse, and the most crucial aspect of the national context. The context differs from one nation to another and this determines the gender discourse, national policies for ensuring women empowerment, women representation in the legislative branch and government organs, gender norms of women’s role in the political equity agenda, its implementations in the social life, respectively, and vice versa.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2017, Rwanda was ranked as one of the top 5 for Gender equality, as the fourth country. In addition, on the Political Empowerment sub-index, Rwanda has crossed the 50% threshold of its gender gap. Rwanda is among the countries that have a mandatory women’s quota system of 30 % that ensuring women’s involvement and representation in decision-making organs (Rwanda’s Constitution of 2003, Art.9).

This was one of the motives that influence the increasing percentage of Rwandan females in the legislature. Within its two legislative chambers, there is a female parliamentarian’s majority in the upper house with 61.3%, and the upper house with 38.5% (World Bank Data, 2020). This percentage in the Rwandan parliament not only has the highest percentage of female representation in Africa but also worldwide. It took the place of Sweden as the highest percentage of female representatives.

In the studies of peace and security, there are a lot of scholars that assert the transformation of the gender role in the peacebuilding process in post-conflict societies. This has been applied to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. As some scholars introduced the several effects of the genocide on gender norms which were reflected in the post-genocide society in more targeted policies that promote gender equality.

This research targets to investigate the change of altering of gender norms in Rwanda in the post-genocide society. After the genocide and the loss that Rwanda had and in the reconstruction stage, the Government of National Unity (GNU) implied women empowerment as a priority to maintain security and a necessity of the sustainability of establishing peace in the new era

1.2. Research question & its relevance

The present paper aims to call into question the changes in gender norms after the reconstruction of Rwanda; why Rwanda ranks in the top 5 for gender equality, while other sub-Saharan countries have low ranks in terms of political women empowerment, education, and gender-equality laws?

In order to answer this question, two more specific questions are investigated in the analysis; to what extent the gender norms after the genocide were robust in terms of the discursive speeches of the president and the first lady?

To what extent the President’s gender-equality policies witnessed a change in the political empowerment of Rwandan women in the construction phase and now, reflecting the new construction of gender norms?

In addition, the aim of this work is to analyze the different gender equality norms and discourse that the president and the first lady of Rwanda have established since the end of the destructive genocide of 1994. Mrs. Kagame is included in the analysis because of her effort as an advocate for women and children. Both are in the research to see how they contributed to the changing gender policies and agendas that were implemented to enhance the process of reconstructing and establishing the involvement of women in public life.

Moreover, the analysis of the political factors and the driving forces in terms of national agendas in documents in the post-genocide Rwandan society is relative in the research. The documents that will be included here are the relative speeches of President Paul Kagame and his wife, and this will be declared in detail in the next section.

  1. Literature Review

In the literature, there are many papers, books, and articles that tackle the theme of gender in Rwanda, especially after the genocide and the effectiveness of the new national policies. Because of the constantly changing politics, ideologies and circumstances many studies have examined one or two sides and not all the various facets.

As noted, while a growing qualitative literature investigates the promotion of gender equality as one of the repercussions of the genocide within country -, women rights  (see e.g. Burnet, 2008; 2011;  Izabiliza, 2005; and Wallace, Haerpfer, et al., 2008), they do focus on examining how the gender policies were a necessary condition in rebuilding the society. Moreover, several studies interpreted the gender-based strategies after the genocidal violence under Paul Kagame’s and his RPF regime on the assumption that his role in rebuilding society is due to the post-conflict governance in his era. (see e.g. Jones, 2020; Powley, 2003; Burnet, 2008).

The focusing on gender Rwanda after the genocide   (e.g. by the educational policies; see Russell, 2015; Bigler, et al., 2019), the means available to empower the women and the access to education, who has the power advantage after conflict societies, and who has the resources to go through with this process. Likewise, the relation between the mobilization of women and the gender achievements is likely to be affected by the women as rescuers or perpetrators (see e.g. Brown, 2018; Sharlach, 1999).

Reconstructing new gender norms and assuring the historical context, how the gender norms since the colonial period evolved and analyzing the most influential women in Rwanda, such as the ‘Myth of Kigwa’, and what is the role of the first lady Jeannette Kagame, and the crucial discourse in which the struggle for women’s empowerment in modern Rwanda in the genocide’s aftermath (e.g. by Watkins, & Jessee, 2020; Jessee, 2020).

Abbott and Malunda (2015) stress the lack of the implementation of equality policies in the context of economic circumstances in Rwanda. They claim that there are ambiguities of the effects of civil society on social and political hierarchies. In their own words, “A policy implementation gap is undoubtedly a factor in the failure of the majority of women to realize greater gender equality and empowerment.” (Abbott & Malunda, 2015, p. 580).

On the other side, studies investigated the gender-related issues the violence against women, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Rwanda and enclose the outcomes of the gender inequality in which the legal and national policies of women have failed to recover fully from the tragedy of the 1994 events (see e.g. Umubyeyi, et al., 2016; Cohen, et al., 2005; Jefremovas, 1991). Dennehy (2020) claimed that the slow economic growth of the countries which had their independence recently have a great impact on the inequality within the country (see eg. Dennehy, 2020; Andersson, 2020).

A vast amount of literature studied the relationships between gender-related norms and beliefs, and the changes in post-genocide societies. In the research of Mclean et al. (2019) this theme was interpreted with a study of Rwandan couples that participated in the “Indashyikirwa programme” and how the norms and beliefs of gender can be shifted for individuals and then the reflection in their behavior in the relationships with their couples ( see e.g. Paluck, & Green, 2009; Doyle, et al., 2014).

Other studies had investigated the linkage between the shift in the national culture values that happen and how it influences the gender norms in the post-conflict reconstruction era (Ingelhart and Norris 2003), Inglehart, R., P. Norris & C. Welzel 2002, Albertyn, C. 2009, Varnum, M., Grossmann, I 2017, Andrews, Penelope. 2007). Isaksson (2015) acknowledges that Rwanda enjoys different inequality property rights on different plots of land and considers the effects of variation in land rights on field-specific investment (e.g. Isaksson, 2015; Treidl, 2018).

  1. Theoretical Framework

3.1. Social role theory

The behaviors of women and men, boys and girls, are one of the profound thematic research topics in the last decades. Not only in the social sciences but also in biology, psychology, economics, and other branches in science there are a lot of studies on sex’s behavior that target to discover the differences or the similarities and which aspects and motives drive them to act the way they do. A lot of gender studies underline the causes of the differences in the hierarchy of society and how each society develops its own sex-differentiated norms.

Social role theory focuses on the role-related process where the gender norms are produced and how they are reproduced in a variety of sections in society. According to Eagly’s 1987, social role theory has its arguments about the influence of gender stereotypes on the characteristics of the society and in turn on women’s political and social roles in this society. Societal stereotypes about gender involve factors such as the different physical appearances between sexes and how this affects the dispositions of the females (Eagly and Wood, 2012). Thus, these gender norms determine which activities suit men mostly and which activities suit women better. And in this process of establishing the gender norms, the community draws the paths of women’s roles.

The efficiency of certain careers becomes confined to men and drifts women away from these specific jobs. These standards influence the performance of the sexes and which skills they develop throughout their lives to interact in society in the most appropriate way. Women then in some societies still restricted to the roles of a mother or the one who takes care of the home. So the existence of women in public life could be exceptional or abnormal. Certainly, these gender-related norms differ from one context to another and within one context from history point to another.

The perception of gender roles was different, even in the developed countries, before two centuries. Until the women’s suffrage movement no female had the right to vote in nationally or locally. (Jad, 2014; Ramirez, Soysal, & Shanahan, 1997; Gordon and Collier-Thomas, 1997). In the next, a brief introduction details the most important concepts is that related to gender norms.

3.1.1. Origins of the division of labor

Behaviors regarding gender roles are a reflection of the beliefs and perceptions of women’s role in society. This perception produces a distribution of the societal roles between sexes and generates the concept of “division of labor” (see figure 1). Division of labor is when we see one sex, either men or women is preferred to carry out one activity to fulfill the demands of the people (Wood and Eagly, 2002). And the beliefs of suitability or preferences are believed to be in favor of society’s performance and development. Aspects such as the physical capabilities or the size and strength of men were believed to justify the understanding of this division (Huber, 2007; Murdock and Provost, 1973).

3.1.2. Gender roles

Building on these origins, there are established beliefs in every national structure, and they define the discourse in which the gender roles are disturbed. In domestic personal life, in the public sphere, in the labor market, in political life people observe the behavior of women and men and interpret them differently into the categories that are already made and prevalent in the gender discourse. This concept is known as “the correspondent inference principle” by Gilbert and Malone (1995).

As a result, of this establishment of social and cultural structure, gender norms in a certain context are seen as normal or inevitable. By distinguishing the females’ traits and capabilities from the ones that males have the society individuals see these roles as a natural condition in the local circumstances (Wood and Karten, 1986). So, the male domination in sections that requires power and have more authority such as the high levels and careers in the political sector has been seen as a natural path to balance the roles in the society (Ridgeway and Bourg, 2004).

At times these allocations were uneven, and then could create sex segregation of the labor force, leading to gender inequality (Tomaskovic-Devey et al., 2006). Consequently, women had organized movements of feminism seeking gender equality and claiming to have the access to the labor market, the political life, and to have higher careers with power and authority as men (Judith, 2010).

In this paper, the usage of this theory will be applied to the case of Rwanda, and the gender norms that were during and after the genocide, how the speech affected the gender discourse and that in return changed the gender norms, and all of this led to the change in the women behavior in Rwanda.

3.2. Congruence theory

The secondary theory that completes the spectrum of this research is the congruence theory. Congruence theory has in its core assumption the interconnection between the institutions and the culture of a given society in a certain context. This main supposition revolves around which interactions occur within a given nation-state in order to preserve the maintenance of its stability. And in these terms, the political characteristics, such as representation, in the institutional structures are reflecting the political culture of this nation. A lot of studies have supported through their findings the argument of the political congruence theory.

In terms of the leading congruence theorists is Harry Eckstein whose propositions illustrate the political-institutional environment and its role as a factor that determines the attitudes, values, and norms that maintain stability in the society (Eckstein, 1997).

This is the reason why this theory is used in this paper. In our analysis, this theory is strongly related to the Rwandan political structure and how they are mirroring the dominant attitudes towards gender norms. The new changing political structure is representing closely the popular values in favor of certain policies and beliefs. According to Inglehart and Welzel (2002), there is a robust relationship between women’s representation in the legislative organs and the gender norms in the same culture.

The two theories together are representing the investigation of the research question in this paper. On one hand, the first theory asserts the gender norms and. On the other hand, the second theory emphasizes the other way around, that the organs in the political sphere in the nation are a mirror of the existed gender norms. The political beliefs are affecting gradually the culture that the population has. And then by the new policies, there will be a changing the political institutions.

Rwanda is a good test case for political congruence theory since the political institutions are more egalitarian than the political culture of many of the population. Congruence theory would predict that these two aspects should converge and we could predict that either the political culture of the population will gradually “catch up” with the political structures or they will result in the toppling of the political structure in favor of a regime that more closely reflects popular values This happened in East European communist societies where attitudes to gender equality did not also reflect the dominant political structures.

3.3. Research hypothesis

This paper is designed to assess the hypothesis that Rwanda’s 100-day massacre did displacements of the old beliefs, and norms that related to the gender role and perform better and equal opportunities for all individuals, including and prioritizing the Rwandan women (see figure 2).

In times of any crisis in a nation, there is a lot of opportunities while healing the nation from the repercussions. Rwanda in July 1994 had lost already 800,000 citizens in 100 days. Moreover, millions were displaced and in that way lost their homes. There was neither trust between the governmental organs and institutions and the individuals nor among the individuals themselves (Blair, T. Apr 2014). The massacre was between the Tutsi population as a minority and Hutus as a majority, and the army, police, thousands of Hutu civilians, and militias were involved. After almost three decades there are a lot of social and economic effects that the society still has after the recovery from the dividing between the people.

Post genocide societies have constantly purposes to recover economically, maintain the available resources, intentions to build long-term peace, in order to avoid disputes and stop history from repeating itself. One of the targets in these communities is to make transformations in the structure of the society to spread the speech of trust and unite the population again.

The leadership in these crucial times is one of the most relevant factors that contribute to the positioning of the beliefs and norms in this new era after the tragic events. In this research, it is assumed that under the leadership of President Paul Kagame after he took office in 2000, and after his predecessors Pasteur Bizimungu, there was an adaptation of the new gender norms (Buckley-Zistel, Susanne. 2008). Mrs. Kagame has also known as an activist, as she is UNAIDS Special Ambassador for Adolescent Health and Well-being, as well as was one of the co-founders and the president (2004-2006) of the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA).

In the peacebuilding process and bringing back the nation together the Rwandan women’s participation was decisive in the resettlement and was gain to gender equality in the aftereffects of the genocide. Hence, the government was committed to play role in bridging the gender gap in Rwanda.

From the above statements and sections, this paper suggests a qualitative research hypothesis that states that:

“The genocide of Rwanda of 1994 changed the gender norms dramatically in the social and cultural context during the reconstruction phase. Despite the economic status of Rwanda as a developing African country, the new established gender-related attitudes affected positively the women’s role, existence and participation in the Rwandan decision-making process till the present time”.

It is relevant to unlock the aforementioned hypothesis’s components to examine it. This hypothesis consists of two sub-presumptions, as the following:

  • Proposition 1: The genocide as a historical milestone has led to an establishment of a comprehensive discourse of new gender norms.
  • Proposition 2: The reconstructing of the gender roles was enabling through a legal framework that proposed and introduced by the head of state, the president, and the first lady of Rwanda and at the same time adopted by the government.

These two theoretical presumptions shape the main hypothesis. And this latter composed of these two main variables:

  • Independent variable: comprehensive gender norms through the lens of discursive, historical, and political evolution.
  • Dependent variables: enduring structural changes in social gender roles; women’s empowerment legally and institutionally.

3.4. Research method: content analysis

In order to have a scientific analysis and to examine the different aspects of the issue, the Content analysis will be used to explore the characteristics of the researched topic (Holsti, 1968; Elo, Kääriäinen, & et. al 2014). So in this paper, the analysis introduced in a comparative study of how the attitudes towards gender, strategies have been preceded, and the national policies developed. Although Content analysis is a research tool that is widely in papers around the world, it’s different in the techniques and the resources they used (Mayring, 2000; 2014).

On one hand, content analysis is a method for explaining and studying the different information from documents and originally drives from communication Science (Flick; Kardoff and Steinke, 2004). It based on the various research approaches and techniques that evaluate sets of texts and its value of certain concepts or words. The texts could be newspapers, articles, essays, conversations, speeches, books, discussions, advertising, historical documents, and audiovisual texts, etc.

There are three ways that researchers can mainly use content analysis. The first is to form deductions about the previous communication, depicting the characteristics of communication and making deductions about the ways that the communication affects the other factors (Hsieh and E Shannon, 2005).

Every content analysis must include six important questions (Krippendorff 2004; Ward, 2012) the data that are analyzed, the way these data are defined, the population that these data directed to the relevance of the context f the data, the target of the inferences and the boundaries of the analysis.

The concept of texts and documents here will be defined in discussions, speeches of the president and the first lady, statements, and remarks, etc. So these speeches of Paul Kagame and the first lady Jannettee Nyiramongi Kagame will be used in the research as an indicator for the new discourse of gender norms in Rwanda resulting in promoting women empowerment through national-level laws and policies.

In this paper, the analysis will be held in a deductive approach, as the researcher will use the data itself and make it a basis in creating the codebook. Based on the qualitative data we have itself, the deductive code is manually created.

  1. Operationalisation

4.1. Research design

The content analysis as a deductive approach is used here in this research to prove a true conclusion using true premises and logical reasoning (Kyngäs and Kaakinen, 2020). Here the deductive approach is applied to prove the linkage between the social aftereffects or repercussion of an unpleasant historical event, such as conflicts, wars, or mascara, and the new gender norms and women’s role in the post-conflict society respectively.

Through the application of content analysis on the speeches of the head of the state Paul and Jannettee Kagame, the main discourse of the new norms in regard to gender will be categorized and analyzed.

The main hypothesis provides these components to be included in the analysis: analysis:

  • The alteration of the Rwandan norms: towards more peace and equality at the community level as well as at the policy level in the reconstruction phase.
  • Prioritizing Women’s empowerment: minimizing the discrepancies in opportunities between sexes.
  • The implementation of the policies: as one of the crucial national steps in the development process of the country.

On the other side, the sub-presumptions and variables are translated into the following categories in the next step of the analysis:

  • The necessity of involvement and contribution of Rwandese women: in the reconstruction phase of Rwanda.
  • Indispensability rearranging the political and institutional structures: in the new era to reflect the newly established political culture of the population.
  • Enabling Rwandese women into the different leadership positions: high levels in the government and parliament.

4.2. Content relational analysis framework: sampling technique, unit of analysis & coding scheme

The sampling technique is purposive as the appropriate method of the qualitative content analysis and the unit of analysis is the ideas expressed in sentences and phrases of the stateswoman and statesman. The chosen texts are speeches by Pau Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame, interviews with them, and official documents by the government or Kagame. And these speeches and texts that will be included are those ones he or she held since he was the vice president and till the speeches nowadays. To extract the meaning in the data, there is purposive sampling in the investigation. The start point in this analysis is the speech of Kagame on 7th July 1994 as he was sworn in as vice president and minister of defense of the Republic of Rwanda till 2000. The analysis continues to the period before the presidential election in 2003, when he addressed the ‘Nation Genocide Commemoration Day’ of the Republic of Rwanda (Rukemberi Kibung) in 2001. And in each of these Nation Genocide Commemoration Days, he makes a speech to express the achievements of how society has passed since the massacre.

The texts can be categorized into three various types of speeches. The first type revolves around the massacre in Rwanda, they begin with Paul Kagame’s Speech on July 19, 1994, and then the Speeches on the commemoration of the genocide against Tutsi. In the second type are the events relating to gender to see, in which issues the president focuses on, such as; the presidential remarks at the Opening of 2019 Global Gender Summit on, 25th November 2019. Finally, the third form of speeches are the ones that handle specific topics or at various international or regional economic, political summits, such as; the recent speeches during the Corona- pandemic. These recent ones are targeted to examine if the attitudes towards different gender issues till now.

Based on the literature review and the theoretical framework, there are certain points that reflect the expression of the shift in gender norms and the discursive after these unusual circumstances. In this part a description of the initiative elements in the content analysis of this study:

  • Highlighting and stressing the role that women played in the aftermath and the continuing of this role in the peace-building process
  • Establishment the new national political context of women’s empowerment.
  • The importance of the participation of women in the decision-making process
  • The attitudes towards the gender issues; gender gap, access to education, division in the labor market, maternity issues.
  • Paths of reaching gender equality as a new era in Rwanda and complying with the global discourse of gender equity.

The following coding scheme is the outline in which the previous elements will be searched for in the mentioned speeches and categorized:

  • Renewing the gender norms.
  • Reconstruction of the gender roles after the genocide; socially and politically.
  • Gender-related long-term strategies and national policies.:

The aforementioned elements of the hypotheses and the different elements make up together Table 1 which shows an overview of the content analysis.

Table 1: Content Analysis coding scheme

Categories Sub-Categories Example
Attitudes towards gender issues – The aftereffects of the massacre on Rwandan women: education and literacy, (mental) health, children and mother care, maternity, gender-based violence, and discrimination, etc.

– Women positioning at the different social and political levels; parliament, leadership, and government.

“It’s a day that will promote your rights as girls, highlight gender inequalities that  remain between you and your brothers” (see Speech by Mrs. Kagame 2012, October 18)

“I think it is past time for men to become much more conscious of gender” (see Remarks made by Paul Kagame 2019, November 25)

Gender norms — The necessity of involvement and contribution of Rwandese women.

–  The importance of gender equity in the contemporary global discourse..


“For women especially, we need to unreservedly accord them their full rights and roles.” (see Speech by Paul Kagame 2018, January 29)

Women empowerment – Women in post-Genocide Governance: Indispensability rearranging the political and institutional structures (RPF; NURC).

– Gender-related long-term strategies and national policies..


“it is important that we have had statements of commitment to narrow the gender gaps and inequalities that exist.” (see Remarks by Paul Kagame (2020, February 8)

Table 1 illustrates both the pre-determined criteria and the gathered raw data from the speeches throughout the project as the emerged pattern.  As the table clarifies that there are three categories that represent the pillar of the analysis of the speeches and texts.

These patterns have emerged from the coded data, in a sense that enables the paper to develop the themes, represent the facts, test the research question and execute the analysis to draw important analysis’ results and reach a scientific objective conclusion. These findings are discussed in the following section.

  1. Empirical Analysis and Discussion

In this section, the findings are represented based on the used methodology. The results of the content analysis had produced relevant results within the categories that are determined previously. These outcomes are rearranged to get a more comprehensive understanding and divided into three parts. Each part tells us how the president and the first lady pointed out the focal points of their approaches in the political arena and the gender issues.

5.1. The evolution of gender dimensions in the Rwandan national context:

5.1.1. The post-conflict society:  women as genocide survivors

In almost every speech, both Paul and Jannettee Nyiramongi Kagame mentioned and stressed the violence that spread the hate speech, including the sexual violence towards children, girls, and women. Without any indecision the mass killing that happens left the country in multi-leveled destructive distortions (Dennehy,  2020). The attack on the Tutsi minority ethnic group, unfortunately, didn’t differentiate between the age, gender, or status of the victims. Between 250,000 and 500,000, mostly Tutsi women were targeted, raped, and killed (McNamee, 2021).

The initial discourse in the early speeches was targeted to draw the population’s complete attention to the negative repercussions of racism and violence in the society and to avoid the repetition of such an ethnic antagonism between Tutsi and Hutu. 1

  1. See The Rwandan Newspaper. (2012, October 7).

So the goal was not only to bring the anti-Tutsi racism to an untimely end but also to solidify the new Rwanda.2

Moving on in chronological order the speeches became more focused on how to address the physical and psychological effects on the Rwandan women as survivors, and the health of these victims.3 This unique national context made the first lady one of the advocates and activists for women and children’s health care and she represented not only Rwanda but has been active in many organizations, campaigns, and initiatives that have targets the health care services in poor countries.4 These efforts are such as her participation in the Global Campaign on Children and AIDS, at UNHQ.

5.1.2. Empowerment of women as individuals: at a domestic level

After the conflict resolution phase, the gender inequalities and imbalances in Rwanda were profound. One of the post-conflict problems was the raped women and girls that had few chances of receiving antiretroviral medications. 5 On one hand, at a community level, there were a lot of post-conflict problems that needed to be dealt with, such as; poverty, domestic violence, corruption.6 On the other hand, to put an end to these problems, the speeches were about achieving sustainability of economic growth, promoting reconciliation, preserving human rights, protecting women’s rights, and building a future of stability and prosperity for Rwanda’s children. 7 Here the words and phrases of the president and his wife are more directed to specific paths to empower the citizen.8 Empowerment of individuals and households was then seen as a necessity to the development as the main components of the Rwandan social structure.9

  1. See Paul Kagame’s Speech on July 19, 1994. (2011, December 7).
  2. See Plenary Statement :Universal Health Coverage (2019, September 23).
  3. See Remarks of the First Lady of Rwanda at launch of Unite For Children Unite Against Aids. (2005, October 25).
  4. See “A Conversation with President Paul Kagame by Time Magazine’s Alex Perry.” (2007, September 27).
  5. Sabiiti (2020, October 12).
  6. See The New Times News paper (2009, June 07).
  7. See Paul Kagame’s Statement at opening of the 59th Session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa ( 2009, August 31).
  8. See Remarks by President Kagame at 75th United Nations General Assembly (2020, September 22).

To achieve this more peaceful community, a lot of individual characteristics needed to be altered. Gender roles were gradually changing to become closer to gender equity. Females are seen then as equitable partners in the Rwandan society and thus they have more opportunities and more equal ones just as their male peers (Doyle, Wallace & et. al 2014).

In this stage the leading role of Rwandan women started within women’s strength and discovering the women her self-worth.10 Promoting such gender-related attitudes and concepts had its own implications on the women role within the household and how this role could be a relevant point of eliminating the patriarchal society and influence men’s behavior towards the division of the social responsibilities, roles, and abilities of women. According to the second survey Integrated Household Living Conditions in 2005 (EICV 2), Rwandan women were heading 35% of the Rwandan households as they were able to earn and manage the household’s financial resources to provide it to their families (Gender and community: 2009).

One relevant point in the latest speech of the president is the effects of the Corona pandemic on society, but especially the women. As he stated in his remarks in 2020 how this global crisis had uneven influences on the different sexes and how to overcome the negative repercussions of the lockdown “within structural gender disparities”. 11

5.2. Gender mainstreaming in new Rwanda: gender and social inclusion

5.2.1. Greater Access to Education: eliminating gender-based discrimination

After a historical catastrophe such as the Rwandan massacre, all the humanitarian aspects in the society are destroyed.  Hence, in the new phase requires a new establishment of beliefs and norms that turn into the dominant trend in public opinion.

  1. See (UNFPA) website, Statements by Jeannette Kagame (2012, October 18).
  2. See Remarks by President Kagame in G20 Summit. (2020, November 22).

One of these is the norms and attitudes towards gender discrimination. These gendered attitudes were adopted and promoted by the leadership of the country as a necessary step towards gender equality.

Besides the constitution, the legislative procedures, and all the formal policies in a nation, the informal principles of quality are an indispensable part of the process of democratization. Intending to eliminate such prejudicial treatments or unfairness based on sex, the first lady took part in a lot of initiatives that aim to diminish these discriminatory attitudes. Besides, in her speeches, she addressed the commitment to gender equality in the new Rwanda.12 As well, she declares up-to-date in details the arrangements that are required to reinforce gender equality (Treidl, 2018).13

The presidential encouragement of the adolescents and young girls to be educated is one of the three pillars that are or were funded by multiple political actors (e.g. the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA)- Youth Program).  Such projects and

Mr. Kagame as well as his contributions on the issue of correcting any discrimination and youth education, as the government commits to international conventions and signatories (e.g. Education for All (EFA), the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)).14

As an outcome of these gendered norms, According to World Bank Data, Rwanda is one of few African nations that achieved by 2018, 96% in adjusted Net Enrolment Rates (NER) of females in primary education, and in this regard, Rwanda succeeds to reach gender parity in its primary education for girls.

5.2.2. Women participating and leading within the civil society: Human Right and Gacaca Jurisdictions, socio-economic initiatives

Women’s access and leading to the socio-economic initiatives was one of the Rwandan social features in the reconciliation process (Gender and community, 2009).  When one

  1. SeeThe New Times News paper (2014, February 6).
  2. See President Kagame’s Remarks at the Opening of 2019 Global Gender Summit. ( 2019, November 25).
  3. See (UNFPA) website, Statements by Jeannette Kagame (2012, October 18).

gets a closer look at Rwandan women’s role in the post-conflict society in the early stages, we must concentrate on the “Gacaca” with a gender perspective. Gacaca is the local community-based court that was created in Rwanda and was a necessary process to reach justice for the families that suffered from the massacre. Rwandan women didn’t only participate in Gacaca, as they presented 35 %, but also they have been headed judges on these courts (Blackie and Hitchcott, 2018).

These involvements of women in such socio-economic changes and maintenance of security continued after the end of Gacaca’s work in 2013 and those were constantly highlighted in the speeches of Mrs. Kagame. Almost after 20 years of the genocide, Ndi Umunyarwanda was grounded by National Women Council (NWC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion and other international political actors. Ndi Umunyarwanda means “I am Rwandan” and aimed at educating the youth and the old Rwandan about social concepts, such as: hard work, patriotism (McNamee, 2021; New Times, August 29, 2014).15

In addition to the procedural juridical initiatives, there were dynamic projects regarding gender equality that proposed by the governments’ organs to facilitate and support women’s contribution in the pillar of economic sustainability. And this was supported by a lot of the statements that Mr. Kagame made.16 There was the Gender Budget Initiative (GBI) which started in 2000 and it has positive repercussions in having a generation in which the country has female entrepreneurs.

5.3. Women in the process of “Democratization” Rwanda:

5.3.1. The concept of good governance and gendering Rwanda

Before the newly established constitutional framework, in 1999 the National Unity and Reconciliation Committee (NURC), National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR), and Gacaca jurisdictions, were established to set the priority of restructuring gender roles at a national level (Izabiliza, 2005).

  1. See The New Times News paper (2014, February 6).
  2. See President Kagame’s Remarks at the Opening of 2019 Global Gender Summit. ( 2019, November 25).

According to the constitution of 2003, Rwandan women must be mobilized to involve more in the construction process and this was mainly the responsibility of the National Women Council by determining the minimum 30% of female in the various elected positions. As a result, the female politicians’ percents were increasing tremendously at all levels in the decision-making process in the political arena. As the new aftermath governments’ had the commitment to promote non-conventional gender roles. In 2008 more than half of the representation, about 56%, in the parliament was female politicians. And that was an indication of the new direction of gendering the nation and empowering women (UN-Women 2018).

A relevant juncture is the decentralization of the new Rwanda’s governance. The Rwandan national gender machinery was a part of the decentralization of the post-genocide government. This process was pointed out more than once by president Kagame. In a discursive perspective, the president made a number of statements in which he stressed the importance of decentralization where all citizens participate in the restoration and sustainability at societal levels.17 This new strategic agenda had an enlarging number of corrective measures to enclose the different parties of the citizen, especially youth and women.18 Vision 2020 and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) are contemporary indications of the national policies, gender policies, and more, of the developing governance at the different levels (Rwanda vision 2020, policy database of Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning).

5.3.2. Legal, Institutional mechanisms and long-term policies: gender equity in a global discourse

One One of the first fundamental steps after a few years of genocide in advocating gender equity was women’s land rights in Rwanda through what called “the Law on Succession” (Cooper, 1999; 2011; Treidl, 2018). This was a milestone in gender equality’s progress in Rwanda’s politics.19

  1. See Paul Kagame’s Statement at opening of the 59th Session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa ( 2009, August 31).
  2. See President Kagame addresses the International Peace Institute (2009, September 21).
  3. See Remarks by President Kagame at the Launch of SDGC/A Sub-Regional Centre for Southern Africa (2019, 7 August).

An earlier crucial coalition in the Rwandan legislation was the founding of the Rwanda Women Parliamentary Forum (FFRP), in 1996, which is one of the most important organs as cross-party women’s caucus that provides the legislative platform of applying and protecting the international treaty “CEDAW” (UN-Women 2018).

In most of the speeches that the president held, he did place emphasis on the complying of the new government and leadership with the international gendered discourse. As he stresses the importance of the gender agenda that Rwanda adopts as a crucial part of the partnership between Rwanda and the other political international actors.20  He presented the concept of gender equality in the peace and parity’s agenda a vital component that is followed not only for Rwanda but also for the African countries.21  Women’s empowerment in this sense is a footstep nearer to the prosperity and to the well-being of the Rwandan people.

The compliance with the international community regarding gender parity became a relevant phrase that Kagame points out in his speeches, statements, and interviews.22


This paper seeks to explore and investigate the dynamics that led to the robust representation of Rwandan women in the political arena, especially the female parliamentarians. In the chronological examining the speeches, remarks, and statements made by the head of the state and his wife, it becomes a piece of evidence that the discourse of gender was been developing parallel with the historical reconciliation’s process after the genocide in 1994. In the post-conflict society, women were one of the marginalized groups that were disadvantaged the most. Simultaneously, the reconstructing of the nation demanded the restoration and inclusion of all the people regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, and race. Consequently, the leadership of Rwanda was aware of that in the discursive role in the national context.

  1. See Address by president paul kagame, 73rd United Nations General Assembly (2018, September 25 ).
  2. See Remarks by President Kagame at the Launch of SDGC/A Sub-Regional Centre for Southern Africa (2019, 7 August).

In most of the speeches, the goal was from one side to raise the awareness of the gender roles, from the other side to launch campaigns and initiatives, adopt the gender-related national policies, propose and emphasize implementations. The limitations of this paper were mainly in the availability of the old speeches, as not all the speeches were recorded or documented. Another limitation was the linguistic challenges. As some other speeches were neither in English nor translated into English.

  1. Conclusion

There are two types of genocides, according to Jones (2020); the ‘gendercide’ and ‘root and branch genocide’. The first classification, which implies the Rwandan massacre, refers to the targeted mass killing of a particular gender or sex (Overall, C. 1987). The genocide’s dynamics of targeting the victims were multifaceted and gendered. After the genocide women were involved more in the peace-building phase.

In order to have a realistic insight, this paper encompassed the respective cultural configurations in the national context. The most important findings can be categorized into four focal points that are the pillars of the gender aspects in the researched speeches. First, a new ideological approach was a necessity for the government to build the new Rwanda. This approach was headed by Mr. and Mrs. Kagame and appeared to be straightforward. The fundamental goal of adopting the gendered approach was the transition of the society from a patriarchal society to a new more equitable one.

Second, under the framework of the multifaceted governance in Kagame’s presidency the attitudes towards gender issues were gradually altered. To enable the replacement of the gender roles at domestic and community levels, the contents of the speeches were purposed to underline the profound changes that needed to be done in the Rwandan cultural structure. This was not only a comprehensible path to renew the gendered aspects and empowering women but also stop the division of the people.

Third, gender parity was then enhanced by the government and led by the president and the first lady. The tendency to the gender equality was in a policy agenda that contains the elimination of discrimination and consolidation of women rights, equiponderating the inherit property rights, customizing the healthcare of victimized women and their children, promoting the female entrepreneurs and the initiatives of women, and prioritizing the girls’ education.

The fourth point is a consequence of the several abovementioned indicators and this is the positioning of women’s role in the political arena. Hence, the speeches were directed to administer the role of Rwandan women in both; informal politics and legal reforms such as; civil society organizations, the NGOs, and informal politics, such as; the parliament, the government, and the jurisdiction.

In gender equality studies, the contribution of women in a post-conflict society, the transition phase, and the peace-building process were continuously the core of a lot of analysis. However, these as one of the social sciences have their critics, as studying the formal women roles have several interconnecting parts or elements with the social, economic, cultural circumstances, and political systems. Thus, the formal presented women role can differ and develop remotely from the informal women roles in society. Some scholars have proposed these arguments that Rwanda has a female majority and other kinds of formal participation, but the gender norms still have more challenges.

Appendix A: theoretical illustrations

Figure 1: social role theory: gender roles guide sex differences and similarities through biosocial

Source: Eagly, A. ; Wood, W. 2012

Figure 2: A visualization of the research hypotheses  

 Source: The hypotheses dynamic within theoretical framework, self generated

Appendix B: list of speeches, remarks and interviews

  1. Paul Kagame’s Speech on July 19, 1994. (2011, December 7).
  2. Remarks of the First Lady of Rwanda, Her Excellency Jeannette Kagame, at launch of Unite For Children Unite Against Aids. (2005, October 25).  
  3. A Conversation with President Paul Kagame by Time Magazine’s Alex Perry. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2007, September 27).
  4. Opening of the 59th Session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa. Paul Kagame’s official website. ( 2009, August 31).
  5. First Lady Jeannette Kagame’s Speech at the Children’s Champion Award Dinner in Boston. (2009, June 07). The New Times News paper.
  6. President Kagame addresses the International Peace Institute. Paul Kagame’s official website. ( 2009, September 21).
  7. Kagames historic speech in parliament. (2012, October 7). The Rwandan Newspaper.
  8. Girls, seize every opportunity with confidence!. (2012, October 18). United Nations Population Fund’s: East and Southern Africa (UNFPA) website.

  1. Times Reporter. ( 2014, February 6). Speech of First Lady Jeannette Kagame at Leadership Dinner in Washington D.C. The New Times News paper.
  2. Kagame’s acceptance speech on taking over as new AU chair. (2018, January 29). The New Times News paper.
  3. Address by president paul kagame, 73rd United Nations General Assembly. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2018, September 25 ).
  4. Remarks by President Kagame at the Launch of SDGC/A Sub-Regional Centre for Southern Africa. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2019, 7 August).
  5. Plenary Statement :Universal Health Coverage. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2019, September 23).
  6. President Kagame’s Remarks at the Opening of 2019 Global Gender Summit. Paul Kagame’s official website. ( 2019, November 25).
  7. President Kagame’s Remarks at the Meeting on Women’s Empowerment in Africa. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2020, February 8).
  8. 75th United Nations General Assembly | Remarks by President Kagame. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2020, September 22).
  9. Daniel Sabiiti. (2020, October 12). First Lady Jeannette Kagame Calls On Men To End Child Abuse. KT-Express.
  10. Remarks by President Kagame in G20 Summit: Session 2 on “Building an Inclusive, Sustainable, and Resilient Future”. Paul Kagame’s official website. (2020, November 22).


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