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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 October, 2003, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
Rwanda moves to top women MP list
Rwandan MPs being sworn in
Some hope the women MPs will add something different
Rwanda now has the world's highest proportion of female members of parliament, a study shows.

Following elections earlier this month, 48.8% of Rwanda's MPs are women, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Sweden, where 45% of MPs are women, has been the long-standing leader of the IPU ranking of women in parliament.

The first polls since the 1994 genocide were marred by reports of intimidation and the IPU said it hoped that the women MPs would help society.

Of the 80 seats in the national assembly, 24 were reserved for women and another 15 were elected.

A further six women were elected to the Senate.

Social issues

"Women bring something special to legislative work. They have a different view of society than men do," said IPU secretary general Anders Johnsson.

He told the AFP news agency that they were particularly strong on social issues.

Rwanda: 48.8%
Sweden: 45.3%
Denmark 38%
UK: 17.9%
US: 14.3%
Swaziland: 3.1%
Niger: 1.2%
World average: 15.2%
The elections ended a nine-year transition period following the genocide, in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

A new constitution was earlier passed and complex electoral rules were intended to prevent a single ethnic group or party amassing too much political power.

The European Union election observer mission criticised some aspects of the election, saying that ballot boxes may have been stuffed.

In the presidential elections in August, Paul Kagame won 94% of the votes.

His RPF party won a landslide majority in the parliamentary poll, held over three days in September and October.

Mr Johnsson hopes Rwanda's reconstruction will see a bigger role for women.

"The success of women in politics in the Nordic countries, for example, has long been attributed to a culture which fundamentally values the equality of women in all sectors of society," Mr Johnsson said.

"Time will tell if such a culture also takes root in Rwanda."

Africa as a whole has lower-than-average female representation - 14.9% of all MPs, compared to 15.2% across the world.


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