Though politics in Rwanda have been dominated by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) since the 1994 genocide, the country’s 2003 constitution includes measures aimed at strengthening multi-party representation in government structures. In the Senate (Sénat), 16 members are indirectly elected to serve 8-year terms and 8 members are appointed by the President to serve 8-year termsi. In the Chamber of Deputies (Chambre des Députés), 53 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve 5-year terms and 27 members are indirectly elected by special interest groups to serve 5-year terms.ii The country’s constitutioniii stipulates that women must occupy at least 30% of seats at all leadership levels. iv

As of November 2011, 56.3% of the Rwandan parliament comprised women, making it, by the far, the most female-friendly national legislature on the planet, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). v Further there is a parallel system of women's councils and women-only elections guaranteeing a women's mandate for all elected bodies. The electoral law for local authorities concludes that 30 percent of members in all indirectly elected councils at district and city of Kigali levels shall be women.

Between February and March 2011, Rwanda held local elections for Senate members and district and sector council officials where women won 43.2% of districts and Kigali City advisory posts. A report released by the Gender Monitoring Office, vi shows that women massively participated in the February- March local elections recording 54.5% of the registered voters as women, compared to 45.5 percent men. It also shows that 41% of the candidates who ran for elections for district advisory committees were women. Women form 34.4% of the advisory council and 47.6% of the executive committee at national level. In total more women than men assumed office.

Though there is a significant progress, tradition and customs of authority remain barriers to women’s participation in decision-making organs. The report shows a low number of women in top local leadership posts like district Mayor, executive secretary at sector level, leader at cell level, among others. Women prefer to reserve these posts for men. Over 30% were elected to district advisory committees, People with Disabilities, and Youth Councils, in accordance with the constitution. Women were present at the voting stations before the male voting population in most sectors of the country, which reflects a determination to be included in the democratic processes and greater awareness about government programs.

Yet women faced a number of technical difficulties in acccess polling stations, in some areas like Save sector, Gisagara, some men prohibited their wives from going to vote in the Gender Monitoring Office.

The head of Gender Monitoring Office, Oda Gasinzigwa, said that women were also reluctant to apply for positions like that of district Mayor. Conversely, posts like, Vice Mayor for Social Affairs were dominated by women. "Women still need the confidence to go for posts which have for long been occupied by men,vii" she said. "It is also surprising how any gender official or women leaders are always women- it show misconceptions of the true meaning of gender." She explained that gender mainstreaming processes were implemented within a Rwandan culture in which men are still perceived as the head of the family and the key decision makers. She called on the public for more efforts in the implementation of gender practicesviii.

Women Political Representation Statisticsix

Political Representation

Number of Seats

Number as of 2010

Number Elected in 2011

Chamber of deputies (Lower House)


45 or 56%


Upper House/Senate


9 or 34.6% (as of 2003)

10 or 38.5%

*Government ministers/ Cabinet



8 or 30%x

Mayors/ deputy Mayors


11 or 37.6%



Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, < doc>.

ivPowley, E. (2003). Rwanda: Women Hold up Half the Paliament. Retrieved 01 21, 2012 from Women in Paliament: Beyond Numbers:

IPU (International Parliamentary Union-Women in Politics Data Base):

viThe New Times: RWANDA: Women Participated Massively in Elections – Report, June 24 2011 Accessed from

viiEmma Prince, Rwanda: Women participated massively in Elections- Report, 24 June 2011 accessed from

viiiEmma Prince, Rwanda: Women participated massively in Elections- Report, 24 June 2011 accessed from

ixCompilation or IPU (International Parliamentary Union-Women in Politics Data Base), Government Based Statistics and information from Afro-barometer Data Collection.

xMembers of Cabinet 26 with 8 women ministers accessed on 17th January 2012 (30%)

Go to top