By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame successfully branded himself a women empowerment champion. Kagame uses a single indicator to sell his brand, namely, the number of women in parliament. In the current Rwandan parliament, women make up 62%. Mind you these women parliamentarians are not elected by their constituencies — they enter parliament via political parties’ lists. Nonetheless, on this single basis of the number of women in parliament, Kagame receives “Gender Champion” awards. The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks Kagame’s Rwanda the world’s 4th best performer in terms of gender parity.
Kagame’s sells his brand of championing women in words such as these:“Women are a cornerstone of prosperity for society as a whole…It is no accident that the renewal of Rwanda was also accompanied by significant upgrades in the status, roles, and responsibilities of women.”
Rwandan statistics show the true Kagame. Under his regime, poverty in Rwanda continued to have mainly a female gender. Kagame consolidated the feminization of poverty. The 2018 Labour Force Survey indicates that the median monthly income for Rwandan women is RWF18,200 — which is US$0.88 a day. The median monthly income for Rwandan men is RWF30,000 which is US$1.47 a day. In other words, although both men and women are extremely poor in Kagame’s Rwanda, earning far less than the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day, the situation facing women is catastrophic. To call Kagame the champion of women is adding insult to injury.