Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Put more women around you if you want to win elections - Rwandan MP tells Portia

Published:Tuesday | November 10, 2015 | 11:00 AM
Dr Kantengwa Juliana (centre), member of the Rwandan Parliament, speaks with Professor Ishenkumba Kahwa, deputy principal at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, and Tonni Brodber, deputy representative at the United Nations Women Multi-Country Office Caribbean, during yesterday’s Jamaica-Rwanda South-South Exchange media briefing at Mona Visitors’ Lodge at the UWI.

Dr Kantengwa Juliana, a member of the Rwandan Parliament, who is on a working visit to Jamaica, has said that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller needs to have more women in political leadership if she is to have any hopes of returning to power.

Kantengwa expressed her concern about what she viewed as too few women in the Simpson Miller-led Cabinet.

"My advice for her ... I think she is doing well but since it has come up as an issue in political leadership, she needs a critical mass of women behind her," Kantengwa said.

Kantengwa is convinced that having more women in political leadership can make the difference for a political party at the polls, and also leads to better governance outcomes.

"She needs to try that - getting a critical mass. The strategies are up to her about how she will achieve that, but I believe she needs a critical mass of women around her. She does not have it in her Cabinet," she added.

Rwanda is hailed globally as a model in the area of women's political empowerment and participation at the political level with 61 per cent of its parliamentary representatives being women.

GENDERQUOTA

This high level of participation of women in political leadership was facilitated by the introduction of a gender quota which mandated that at least 30 per cent of candidates being fielded by a party vying for power should be women.

Kantengwa has been a strong proponent for the introduction of a gender quota in other countries, particularly developing countries which face similar development challenges as Rwanda.

According to Kantengwa, Simpson Miller should aim to meet the international standard of having 30 per cent of women in the Parliament. This, she said, would dramatically impact the economic prospects for Jamaica.

Jamaica's eight women MPs represent 12.7 per cent of the 63-member House of Representatives, while six female senators constitute 28 per cent of the 21-member Upper House.

Drawing on her experience in the Rwandan Parliament, Kantengwa outlined how women in political leadership have spurred economic growth in that country.

"There is a positive correlation between the rising number of women in Parliament and the corresponding rise in the number of women in entrepreneurship ... at the village level, cross-border trade and small business but also at the higher level, women in business ... . Today we see women doing business in different sectors, and in terms of economic growth, the few years that we have been doing this, we have seen a tremendous improvement in the way Rwanda is doing both nationally, regionally and internationally," she said.

IMPROVEDSTANDARDS

Kantengwa also pointed out that Rwanda has improved its standing in several economic indicators. According to her, "The women in Parliament have influenced proper management of the little resources that we have. Corruption is almost zero in Rwanda ... because of those tiny policies and scrutiny that women make."

She added: "The World Bank Doing Business Report catapulted Rwanda to the number 56 position globally in the ease of doing business. In terms of the ease of doing business, it is the women in Parliament who are reforming the laws that are working around their involvement of doing business.

"In terms of making Rwanda more attractive to foreign direct investment, initially Rwanda had three national banks. Now today, we have over eight regional banks that have come in and invested in the country. The finance sector is booming, we are doing well in ICT ... the GDP has been going up year after year ... the economic push that we have made is almost similar to a miracle," she explained.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com