Dissertation Abstracts

Hidden Inequalities: Rwandan Female Politicians’ Experiences of Balancing Family and Political Responsibilities.

Author: Uvuza, Justine N., jordanu04@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Prof. Diane Richardson and Prof. Janice McLaughlin
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Women , Politics , private sphere , Publis sphere
Areas of Research: Women in Society , Political Sociology , Social Transformations and Sociology of Development


The number of women participating in Rwandan politics has significantly grown since the second half of 1994 (after the civil war and Tutsi genocide). Gradually, especially in parliament where women now compose 63.8%, this growth in political participation has attracted the attention of scholars and the international community. While Rwandan government and the international writers document Rwanda’s relative progress on increasing and promoting women’s participation in politics, the majority of academic work to date has investigated women’s representative role and in most cases explored women in the legislature. Little or no academic work has focused on female politicians’ experiences of balancing their traditional female responsibilities and the public (male-stream) roles they are now taking on.
Using semi-structured one-to-one interviews with female politicians in the cabinet, lower and upper chambers of parliament, local government and from women’s major groups (umbrella and networks), this dissertation examines the women’s narratives of their lived experiences of balancing their private and public roles, and what impact this has had on their lives and career paths. This thesis argues that despite the relevance of women’s access to political posts/work, failure to tackle gender inequalities in all areas of socialisation reshape and reinforce patriarchy in significant ways – especially due to increased time and work penalty that appear not only detrimental to women’s lives but also to the country’s social and economic development. Change in these circumstances seems to require a cultural shift, almost as large as the cultural shift that brought women into politics. This thesis also argues that women’s substantive representative role is better understood if the social-political contexts within which they live and work are considered. This study contributes new ways of understanding and theorising women’s political participation in Rwanda (and in similar contexts) to policy makers and activists.

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