Rwanda has the highest percentage of women appointed to government in the world. Women account for 64 percent of its parliament. (In comparison, America ranks 83rd with 18 percent.)
This is the same country that 20 years ago was in the throes of a genocide that consumed its population at a speed unparalleled in modern history. In 1994, Rwanda experienced 100 days of bloodshed that left some 800,000 people dead.
In the aftermath, the country was shattered. As the liberating rebel army moved in, it pushed the genocidal militias, along with hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees, into neighboring countries. While the world focused on the refugees, the Rwandans who remained in their own country were left to fend for themselves in a decimated nation. The population that stayed behind in the ruins was about 70 percent female.
The traditionally patriarchal society thrust its women into the role of rebuilding the country. They formed local councils, headed judicial proceedings, tilled the land, and rose through the ranks of government. Amazingly, against a backdrop of near total ruin, they ushered in a level of peace and reconciliation that whipped the country into the model of development and gender equality it is today.
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