“If you ask the women behind their market-stalls with lentils and fruits, beans and colorful fabrics, if they have achieved gender-equality, you get laughter or rough words for an answer.”

In numbers, she looks so beautiful, the new world of gender-equality in Rwanda. 64 percent of the members of parliament are women and also half of the judges of the Supreme Court. There are more female ministers than male ones. Over 90 percent of the communities are run by female majors and many enterprises are in the hands of women.

Women in Rwanda work as pilots, mechanics, develop software, are CEOs of mulitmedia- companies and hold leading positions in clinics and universities.

Gender-equality is a political decision and laws have been drafted to implement it. No other country in the world has inscribed into the constitution, that at least 30 percent of the members of both chambers of parliament have to be female.

For centuries Rwandese women had no rights, but since 1999 they are allowed to inherit and own property, half of the assets acquired in a marriage are theirs. It is forbidden for men to beat or discriminate a woman. All ministries have a budget for projects that strengthen the social- economic position of women. It is hard to top this female-friendly approach.

The search for the reality behind Rwanda’s politically motivated gender-equality is a roadtrip through a country that is developing super-rapidly. Rwanda’s capital is very chic, at least in the centre, and then there is a strong political vision: the country shall become the African hub for technology, development, design and banking. Therefore the government has
introduced very ambitious programs for education and poverty-reduction.

And yet Rwanda is one of the poorest countries in the world, landlocked, poor in resources, densely inhabited. 70 percent of the population live on farming. Poverty in Rwanda is female and so is labour.

Can gender-equality be achieved under such circumstances?

Commissioned by GEO Germany, August 2016. Text: Andrea Jeska