Rethinking development in the modern world

RWANDAN PARLIAMENT — Rwanda has implemented the quota system in their parliament, requiring 30 percent of seats to be reserved for women. Currently, 61.3 percent of the seats in the Rwandan parliament are held by women, a few are pictured above. (Gily Sparks)


Divisions can often make up the true barriers of the modern world. With classifications that separate countries from one  another, the network of interconnectedness and similarities  between nations can be hard to see. However, as these division shift and change with progress and regress, their definitions  often do not account for the holistic well-being of the modern  person.

According to MerriamWebster, the classification of  “developed” is defined by “having a relatively high level of industrialization and standard of  living.” Economic development is often seen as a nation’s effort to improve the economic, social and political well-being of its people. After being somewhere  in the realm between “developed” or “developing,” a nation  is often placed into a world category: first, second, third, fourth  or fifth world country. It is perceived on a global perspective  from that label alone.

However, as a broader understanding of development emerges, many countries are surprising the world with their rankings  in social progress. A unique case study of development lies in the small, landlocked, East African  country of Rwanda. Although Rwanda has seen some tough  times since the massive genocide two decades ago, it has  managed to surpass many more “developed” countries in issues of women’s rights.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Global  Gender Gap Index, Rwanda ranks 5th in world, ahead of the U.S. and the U.K., on the Global Gender Gap Report. This does  not mean that women in Rwanda have it better off than women  in the U.S. or U.K. However, the report explains that Rwanda has done more to close the gender gap than the U.S. and U.K. At  86% Rwanda has one of the highest female labour force participation rates in the world. Rwandese women also make 88 cents  USD to every USD a man makes.

To put these statistics into perspective, the 2016 Global Gender Gap Index reported  that in the U.S., the female labour force participation rate  is 56 percent and U.S. women, on average, make 74 cents USD for every dollar a man makes. man makes. The development experts at the World Economic Forum have found a few reasons that explain Rwanda’s success in this area.

After the genocide, women made up roughly between 60 to  70 percent of the nation’s population and therefore had to fill  empty positions that were previously held by men. A similar  trend occurred in the U.S. during  World War II. However, unlike the U.S., Rwanda has managed  to keep their labor rate sustainable. The forum attributes this to  Rwanda’s “pro-women” laws that include a government mandated three-month paid maternity leave and the fact that Rwanda has the highest rate of female political parliamentarian.

In a recent interview, Stella Ken Teta (’20), a student from Rwanda majoring in political  science and international studies, expressed her thoughts on  development in her home country.

She explained that Rwandese  women holding a leading professional position are “very much  respected and encouraged to keep doing her best.” She went on to explain that in her studies in the U.S., she has noticed that men often try to take credit for  women or take over their positions.

Teta credits the gender equality progress to Rwanda’s acting  president, Paul Kagame. She believes that he has played a pivotal  role in gender equality through his support and elevation of equal opportunity for women to utilize their voices and talents to better their professions and the county holistically. Teta ended by saying that Rwandans “have a  duty to build the country together and not in segregation.”


Sophia Vander Kooy ('20) is a political science and international studies major with an unofficial passion for taking creative writing classes. She was the Production Manager at the Anchor during the spring semester of 2020, and previously served as the Editor-in-Chief. She is also a member of the Women's Track and Cross Country teams at Hope, the STEP Community Outreach Student Director and the Co-President of Hope Yoga. Sophia loves writing, being outside, cooking, running and connecting with all kinds of people. She has found the space to be herself at The Anchor and knows that she is not alone in that.

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