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Global leadership: In Rwanda, women run the show

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Among them, she says, is keeping honest. There's a widespread belief, in Rwanda and outside, that women are less corrupt than men. There's not necessarily hard evidence that this stereotype is true, says Shirley Randell, director of the Center for Gender, Culture and Society at the Kigali Institute of Education. But there is evidence, she says, that Rwandans think it's accurate – in public and in private: "They put women on the counters as bank tellers; women handle money in the supermarket." She thinks Rwandans across the board acknowledge that women are more responsible with money.

"If women earn money, and their husbands don't take it, it goes toward the family, toward education, toward health. With most men – not always, but most – it goes toward banana beer," she says.

But behind their soothing image, Rwanda's female politicians are using political muscle to get things done. Women in Parliament have been credited with pushing through laws protecting women and children against domestic and gender-based violence and establishing women's rights to own land and inherit property.

The political ascent of women may stem from Rwanda's troubled history. The 1994 genocide killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days; millions of Hutus fled the country after the genocide.

To Ms. Mukantabana, the horror meant the country had little choice but to try trusting women with what had traditionally been men's work. "Men with power before brought catastrophe," she says. "After, women were accepted to have power in the country as well."

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