By James Karuhanga
Rwanda ranks sixth in closing gender gaps in the world, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2015.
Rwanda comes after Nordic nations Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, and Ireland, after measuring factors, including economic opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health.
Sub-Saharan Africa boasts three countries, including Rwanda, Namibia (16) and South Africa (17) in the top 20 of the index.
Rwanda moved one place better due to improvements in the economic and political pillars.
Rwanda scored 0.794 while Iceland scored 0.881 in the report that ranks 145 economies according to how well they are leveraging their female talent pool, based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators.
The highest possible score is one (equality) and the lowest possible score is 0 (inequality). No country has completely bridged the gap between men and women across all areas surveyed: economy, education, health and politics.
Rwanda is the only African country in the top 15 best places to be a woman.
'Only a matter of time'
Since 2003, Rwanda set a 30 per cent legal minimum quota for women representation across all leadership levels. According to the report, legislation is a key driver of female representation.
Deputy Speaker Jeanne d'Arc Uwimanimpaye has in the past argued that it is important to look beyond the 55 per cent women majority in the bi-cameral House and have more women on the boards of banks and private enterprises.
Yesterday, she sounded confident that Rwanda can be number one in the world.
"Yes, it is a matter of time. There is strong commitment for advancing and sustaining gender equality and empowerment. Only 20 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda has made very important strides. We started from nowhere but we have many significant achievements as far as gender equality is concerned," Uwimanimpaye told The New Times.
More gains will come, she noted, with sustainable peace, continuity of steadfast leadership, hard work for women's economic empowerment, continuous assessment and more efforts to engage men and other stakeholders.
The report indicates that the biggest world progress toward the closing the gender gap is in the political world, although here, much more needs to be done.
It is noted that progress in the economic and political worlds has proven to be self-reinforcing, so interventions such as quotas offer insight into how the gap could be closed further in the future.
Rwanda, which ranks higher than big European economies, including Germany (11), France (15), and UK (18), tops the five-member East African Community (EAC) bloc as conflict ravaged Burundi comes at number 23.
Kenya and Tanzania are at 48th and 49th, respectively, with Uganda at 58th position. The US stands at position 28 and Singapore is at 54.
Janvier Ahimanishyize, country manager at SMEC International, an international consulting firm, is of the view that normally, a big part of women's contribution to society, say their contribution in giving birth and in early child education, and domestic hygiene and order, is often ignored.
"Areas to be improved include women education, which is currently a priority for Rwanda. Women empowerment has been achieved in many aspects, including high numbers of women in decision making positions but we need to maintain or increase it further," Ahimanishyize said.
"Family planning is another area to be streamlined as well as improving mother and child health programmes."
Meanwhile, globally, since 2006, an extra quarter of a billion women have entered the labour force yet the annual pay for women only now equals the amount men were earning 10 years ago, says the 10th annual Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Overall scores have improved by just four per cent and the economic category improved just three per cent globally over the past decade, the report said.
"Companies and governments need to implement new policies to prevent this continued loss of talent and instead leverage it for boosting growth and competitiveness," Saadia Zahidi, the head of the global challenge on gender parity at the WEF, said in a statement.