Balanced Parity: Big Impact from Small Countries

Balanced Parity in Rwanda and Uruguay
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Small Countries, Big Roles for Women: Lessons from Rwanda and Uruguay

Near the top of the Global Women’s Leadership Initiative (GWLI) Index sit two remarkable countries from the global South on their journey to gender parity in leadership: Rwanda and Uruguay. As new democracies, these two small states display high Index scores and balanced parity, indicating high advancement and their standing as forerunners for women’s leadership in the global South. Their impressive performance in the three Pillars to Parity, the framework of the GWLI Index, are evident. Two of the three pillars track the Pathways for women to pursue leadership and the Positions they currently hold. The countries’ high scores and balanced parity are attributed to their individual strengths in different pillars to parity: While Uruguay excels in providing Pathways for women to pursue leadership, Rwanda succeeds in having more women in decision-making positions, the Pillars pathways. Their success in progressing women’s leadership shows that all countries can serve as global leaders toward equality.

Rwanda and Uruguay share similarities when delving into their efforts towards gender parity: a gender quota for women in parliament, requiring approximately one third of each country’s parliament to be comprised of women. Additionally, both countries have established cross-party councils for women to foster the progression of women’s rights. Rwanda’s Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF) and Uruguay’s Bicameral Women’s Bench both have the political power to ensure actionable legislation. Both countries have increased the percentage of women in parliament since establishing a gender quota. The composition of women in Rwanda’s parliament is 55.7%, and Uruguay’s parliament is 22.3%. This success can be attributed to institutions that require gender quotas in parliament, that develop a network through women’s councils, and which support a positive perception of women’s leadership.  As more women serve in elected parliament, the perception towards women leaders becomes more positive, with 82.6% of Uruguayans and 54.3% of Rwandans disagreeing with the statement, “Men make better political leaders than women do”.

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A Closer Look at the Pathways and Positions Pillars

In addition to their gender quotas, Uruguay and Rwanda have specific indicators that influence their Pathways and Positions scores, respectively. Uruguay’s higher Pathways pillar score (3.43 on a scale of 0-5, 3.49 being the current highest score) is a result of the country’s institutions and educational structures that pave the route for women to attain more positions of leadership. Of the Uruguayans who are enrolled in college; 64% are women, compared to 36% men. Since formal education is a crucial aspect of the skills that help women obtain leadership positions, Uruguayan women have greater potential to enter these positions.

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s higher score of 2.88 on the Positions pillar (on a scale of 0-5, 3.19 being the current highest score) indicates that Rwandan women have risen high in terms of leadership positions, specifically legislative positions. In the immediate aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, women made up 70% of the population. Rwandan women organized and created services like MIGEPROF that resulted in more women serving in government positions and contributed to a positive perception of women leaders in the country.

Rwanda and Uruguay are two pioneers from the global South in terms of balanced gender parity due to their effective implementation of institutions such as gender quotas, women’s cross-party councils, and education. Looking forward, other countries can learn from their equitable practices to achieve the goal of 50% of women in leadership by 2050.