Global Forum on Women in Parliaments in Rwanda

Date: Thursday, July 10, 2014

Group photo of parliamentarians participating in the Women In Parliaments summit in Kigali, Rwanda, 3 July, 2014. Photo courtesy of Helena Boyra.

The Global Forum convened by Women in Parliaments (WIP) in Kigali, and co-organized by UN Women, was held from 1 to 3 July 2014. The meeting brought together 200 women leaders from 51 different countries who addressed issues of peace, reconciliation and security, goals for the post-2015 agenda and the impact of gender-sensitive constitutions and legislation.

The programme included a keynote speech by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairwoman of the African Union Commission, and a joint session with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Advocacy Group, where Co-Chairs President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway spoke about the importance of gender equality in the MDGs, and the need to renew our efforts to see change before the 2015 deadline.

Several participants commended Rwanda for the fact that women hold an unprecedented 63.8 per cent of seats in its lower house — sealing its place as the world's only majority female parliament.

The forum included a number of field visits organized by the Parliament of Rwanda in collaboration with WIP, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Women and the World Bank to provide participants with first-hand insights into local projects on gender equality and women’s empowerment in business, society and public life.

During the Forum, Diana Ofwona, UN Women’s Country Representative in Rwanda, spoke about the importance of gender balance in facilitating societal change.

Begoña Lasagabaster, Chief of the Leadership and Governance section of UN Women, delivered a keynote speech highlighting the importance of women’s participation in all aspects of constitution-building processes: “women’s voices influence the final content of a constitution, and raise awareness and open discussions, especially on formerly taboo ‘private’ issues. Participation empowers women by bringing those who may have been politically inactive into nationwide discussions of society’s goals and values, adding to constitutional legitimacy.”

The adopted Kigali Declaration acknowledges the progress made by Rwanda on gender equality. The declaration calls on world leaders and parliamentarians to improve education and healthcare levels, combat poverty and gender-based violence, as well as discriminatory practices and attitudes, and it encourages country-specific programming to prevent abuses of women’s rights.

The Kigali Declaration highlights “the importance of enshrining gender equality in constitutions, endorses in this respect the UN Women Constitutional Database as an important reference point”. It calls for strong legal frameworks to guarantee women’s participation at all governance levels and for gender equality to figure as a key priority in the post-2015 development agenda.

UN Women has been an active contributor in all events organized by Women in Parliament (WIP), including the first Annual Summit which took place in November 2013, and the more recent Study Trip to Iceland in April 2014. UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri is a member of its Advisory Board.

For more information on women’s role in power and decision-making, visit our special Beijing+20 In Focus compilation dedicated to this critical area of concern.