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.”