From colonialism to
independence, Rwanda has had a long history of ethnic clashes but none as
destructive as the 1994 genocide. Divisions based on ethnicity, religion and
inequality of gender represented their governance. More than one million Tutsis
and some Hutus were killed from the extremist regime. Women and their children
were killed simply because they belonged to certain classifications and they
refused to join the genocide project. During the genocide, women suffered the
most. Rape was used as the tool to create fear which resulted wo the wide
spread of HIV/AIDS to victims. Rwanda, like many other African societies is a patriarchal
society that exhibits inequality in economic relations of women. Traditionally,
women were not allowed to own property and their social status was only granted
by the husband or the son. After the genocide, there was a paradigm shift in
gender roles in post genocide in Rwanda. Women were called on a mission to
attack issues on physical and social construction of the country. Rwandan women
were involved in the economy creating peace and easing tension in the northern
region during revolts and achieving justice in the government. One major
characteristic from post-genocide Rwanda are women’s perseverance to fight for
gender equality. Once women’s equality was center topic in peace building,
their rights were recognized in education, economic development and education.
As of 2006, Rwanda passed a bill to combat gender violence also creating attention
of national concern.

Today, Rwanda has
the highest representation of female parliamentarians in the world with 63.7%
followed by Andorra at 50% and Cuba at 49%. On the other hand, The United
States, a country where freedom of speech and opportunity are the main focus only
has 19.4% of women in their government. Why is there such a difference given
that Rwanda is still a developing country and the United States is so advanced?
Could it be that the American women still encounter gender biases in terms of
their characteristics? Or perhaps women in the United States do not have large
representation on policies that are made in the government? The research
question here is: What is it that drives higher percentage of women in
politics?

Literature Review

A lot of literature
explores the factors behind women’s involvement in politics are due to economic
participation, their literacy rate and women’s health and survival rate.
According to American sociologists Burns, Schlozman and Verba, “education is
an ‘especially powerful predictor of political participation'” (Goetz, 2003,
p.2). The sociologists go further to explain two effects that formal education
has on women’s involvement in politics: direct and indirect. The direct effects
of education would include communication skills, knowledge and analysis for
debates. The indirect effects are the engagement in extracurricular activities
in school such as debate team, government or sports. In theory, education would
provide an ultimate goal in leadership, negotiation and organizational skills.
They also explain the future impact of education, demonstrating that it would
provide women an opportunity to high income jobs and access to charitable
organizations.

The fact that
women have fewer opportunities due to old customs hurt their chances to engage
themselves in the economy; particularly the labor market. In 2011, Berniell and
Sanchez-Paramo conducted a study on time use of women worldwide for the World
Development Report 2012, obtaining data on 23 countries which 12 were underdeveloped
countries. The results exhibited that at all level of incomes, women spend most
of their time doing housework than men in Cambodia, and six times more than
Guinea. Duflo explains that lack of free time hinders their ability to
participate in the labor force. In countries where patriarchy exists, in this
case, developing countries, women are more likely to associate themselves with
informal businesses such as a small shop’s that would not occupy much of their
time. This overall leads to the reduction of income.

Women’s
empowerment and women’s health are essential; both must accompany each other.
Monika Panchani, a professor in Zoology explains that if women are empowered, they
are more likely to access healthcare and in that aspect, if health facilities
and programs are provided to women, they are empowered, resulting in “women’s
upliftment” (Panchani, 2014, p.24). Certain developing countries acknowledge
that healthcare for women should extend beyond reproductive health checkups and
basic healthcare, improving the concept of allowing women to access more
advanced healthcare services that will relate to other health concerns such as
AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. In sum, if there is an absence of health
facilities, women are less likely to afford healthcare. On a political
standpoint, they are neglected on healthcare reforms.

Theory

Prior research has
suggested that education plays a major role when it comes to women’s participation
in politics. The argument in some of the literature has argued that it plays
both direct and indirect roles in their active participation in their local
politics, but after my research, the definition of literacy is redefined on a
country to country basis. For instance, in Uganda’s 1997 Local Government Act,
“Thirty percent of local councils should be composed of women, initially
stipulated that a minimum educational achievement of a secondary school
completion certificate would be required of any candidate for local government
office.” (Goetz, 2003, p. 14). However, this created uproar in rural areas
because they would be excluded from running for local office. Eventually, the
Ugandan government proposed an amendment to lower the requirements to primary
education.  In India, the same rule
applies. The amendment that allowed the reservation of one third of the
government seats for women reduced their education level to primary education.
In these two examples, literacy was not the determining factor for women in
political leadership. However, in developed countries, in order for women to run
for office, one must receive higher education. The United States is a prime
example. Although education is not required in the constitution, it is implied
due to the United States position in the world. The United States is a global
hegemon, and therefore as a developed nation, the government sets high
expectations for office.

There has not been
great contrast when it comes to the factors that encourage women to be more
participative in their economic development but there has been some growth from
prior research. The “Journal of Economic
Literature” clarifies two rationales for economic policies to promote women
in politics. The first is the equality of women. Women have always been secondary
in decision making and the inequality between genders is revolting. In the
United Nations 2005 report on the Millennium Development Goals, the secretary
general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan states, “The full participation of
women to all levels of decision making is a basic human right”. (Duflo, 2012,
p.15). The second is the central argument that women portray a role in
development in society. The gender gap between women and men in the labor
force, property rights and management positions must be reduced. This is simply
because not only does it follow the United Nations human rights act, but will
also result in beneficial outcomes. There is also injustice in the labor market
in developed countries. Women who apply for a job position continue to earn
less than men on all levels of qualification.  In the past, there have been preferences
between men and women in which area to tackle first in the country’s economy.
For women, their focal point is child health and power in the household. The
power in the household are comprised of freedom of divorce and policies that
increase their productivity in the labor market. Women empowerment in economic
development is desired globally. Women who invest   in goods and services improve the well-being
of families. In Mexico, PROGRESA/Opportunidades, a cash transfer benefit
program, direct the payments to women, not the men. 

There is clear
correlation between the empowerment of women and their major roles in the
economic development. When women are actively engaged in the economy, they are
prone to act assertive in what they believe in- that is, putting hindrance to
gender bias, gaining property rights and in all, becoming active leaders in the
country.

The presence of
healthcare and technology in previous research represent the common
correlation: if women are empowered, they are likely to gain access to
healthcare and vise versa. On the contrary, there are some instances where
there is a strong sex preference that obstructs the overall objective of women
in politics. The difference in the sex ratios at birth shows that there is
gender inequality, mostly against girls. Some sex ratios at birth are due to
killing of infants or a term used by Duflo, “Sex-selective abortion”. (Duflo,
2013, p.12).  Sex-selective abortion is
most prominent not only in China, but in India, Taiwan and the United States. In
India, it is customary that women should pay dowry when they are married. If
the woman’s family cannot provide the full amount that the husband’s family
desires, it can result in death of the woman and her family. In Taiwan, the
legalization of abortion in 1985 is responsible for the increase of boy births
from 0.515 to 0.54 in the early 1990’s. The United States also poses a concern
on their perception of sex selection. When blood tests were available to determine
the gender of the child, it led to the fear that blood tests could be used for
sex selective abortions. Since the 1980’s, Almond and Eldund reported that,
“there is an abnormal ratio of boys to girls among children at higher parity in
Chinese, Korean, Asian American, and Indian-American families. (Duflo, 2013,
p.12).  But in spite of this, my research
illustrated that there is an overall consensus amongst majority of the
countries of adequate access to basic healthcare.

Women
pursing their dreams of working in the government have been ridiculed in both
the United States and Rwanda. These countries face two major issues: Patriarchy
and social acceptance. Most Americans believe that a woman cannot sun a country
because emotions might affect their decision making when it comes to negotiations
that require objective reasoning. However, a developing country like Rwanda has
had long history with women in power. The problem that makes this question more
appealing is the overall status of the country. If women in Rwanda had a long
history of power in the government, then why do the women in these countries
face sex trafficking, domestic abuse etc.? In the same perspective, why is the
United States, as a developed nation and a global super power have a low
percentage of women in government? Both nations have this concept of patriarchy
pressured upon them. Throughout history, men have dictated this area and the
roles of women were minimized to only household work. In addition, there are
many other factors than gender stereotypes defining women’s involvement in
politics. Their engagement in the economy, their literacy and their health
empowers them to achieve their goal in fighting gender inequality and promote
policies in all three of these areas for the stability of the country. I
believe women can make a difference because even though women involve their
emotions, it is sometimes necessary to achieve great diplomacy and to gain different
perspectives to the current political norms.

Hypotheses

There
is evidence throughout the world that there are a number of obstacles in
women’s participation. For instance, gender stereotypes and voting rights. Nevertheless,
my three independent variables: economic participation and development,
literacy rate and heath and survival rate will explain further on women
empowerment on a country level. The subsections of economic participation and
development covers:
women’s opportunity of working in the labor force, wage equality between women
and men, and higher rate of female managers. Literacy rate
includes the education of primary, secondary and tertiary level. Lastly, health
and survival rate are comprised of: sex ratio of women to men and the life
expectancy. Using these three independent variables, each one is used to the
dependent variable. The dependent variable is women in politics. After
formulating these variables, the following hypotheses were developed: The first
hypothesis argues that countries where women have high economic participation
and opportunity are involved in political leadership. If women are engaged in
the economy, women are more likely to involve themselves in political affairs,
pushing them to force property rights and jobs. The second hypothesis is
countries that have a high literacy rate have more women involved in politics.
If women are educated, they are likely to get a higher position in office and
developing skills such as diplomacy, communication, and critical thinking
skills. Ultimately, the third hypothesis argues that countries that have a high
health and survival rate have more women involved in politics. Women who are
healthy and have access to healthcare will feel empowered to promote change in
the political field to focus on striving on more advanced healthcare.

Methodology

            The dataset used to find correlation
between my independent variables: economic participation, literacy rate, and
health and survival rate comes from the World
Economic Forum in the year 2015 and the data for the dependent variable,
women in parliament, comes from the Quota project. The control variables that
are included in my data are the gross domestic product and the polity of the
country which simply means how democratic a country is in percentage. To
operationalize my independent variables, the
World Economic Forum is used as a framework to capture gender based
dissimilarities and tracking their progress. The index measures national gender
gaps on the economic, education, health and political scale across regions and
income groups. The Global Gender Gap provides a methodology and quantitative
analysis behind the rankings to use as a guideline for designing measures for
reducing gender gaps. The Quota Project is a joint database from the
International IDEA, Inter-Parliamentary Union and Stockholm University that
aims to promote women’s participation in the political world.  To operationalize women in politics, this
database provides information on different quotas in today’s society, going in
depth of the percentages across different countries. In national parliaments,
the average number of seats that are held by women is only 23%. The data for my
control variables are from the Central Intelligence Agency country database
which shows the percentage of GDP per country and Center for Systemic Peace
which is also measured as a percentage.  For my research, these sources will be used on
217 countries to analyze the general question of Rwanda’s high percentage of
women in politics in contrast to the United States.

            To find correlation between my variables,
bivariate and multivariate analysis is needed. It is required that one should
find different perspectives of analysis due to the simple fact that all
countries are not governed the same. These two types of analysis will provide
stronger support for my hypothesis especially in developing countries in
relation to economic participation and healthcare. For my bivariate analysis,
each independent variable will be used to the dependent variable on a scatter
plot to use as an illustration to determine the overall mean and standard
deviation internationally. The analysis of multivariate data will incorporate
the independent, dependent variables, and the control variables. The data will
determine the significance of the variables when all factors of the economy are
active simultaneously. This is shown on a linear regression on a scatter plot
and regression tables.