• 22%

    22% of women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence.

  • 39%

    39% of the population live in poverty.

  • 11%

    11% of children are underweight.


Why we work in Rwanda

In the 1990s, civil war and genocide tore Rwanda apart. Up to one million people were killed - one in every five people in the country. 

Through the justice and reconciliation system there has been massive progress in uniting and rebuilding the country since the conflict, and there has been strong economic growth.

Women’s rights and poverty in Rwanda

Post-war Rwanda has one of the best legal frameworks for women’s rights in the world. The majority of Rwandan parliamentarians are women and there is a drive to tackle gender-based violence.

However, many people still condone early marriage and domestic violence. 22% of women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence.1  

Agriculture is a key industry in Rwanda, but limited access to land, rough, hilly terrain and soil erosion make life even harder for rural households facing hunger and malnutrition. 

Around 39.1% of people in Rwanda still live in poverty2 . Women and children in particular have suffered the effects of war and often struggle to meet their basic needs. 

ActionAid supports women like Hilalie, 45, to develop skills including weaving, which help them break the cycle of poverty

ActionAid supports women like Hilalie, 45, to develop skills including weaving, which help them break the cycle of poverty .

Michel Ndayambje/Actionaid

What we do in Rwanda

Building strength and unity through women

ActionAid helps women earn their own money by providing financial support and training to start their own cooperatives. We support women to start businesses like chicken farming, maize harvesting or vegetable growing so they can provide for their children.

Many women lost the entitlement to their homes and land when their husbands died during the genocide. ActionAid provides advice on how they can claim their rights.

Protecting children’s futures

ActionAid supports early childhood development centres across the country - safe places for children aged three to six to play and learn, which allow mothers to continue working.

We have also built at least 5,320 classrooms across five districts in Rwanda, enrolling at least 239,000 students - 50% of them girls.

In schools, we help girls get access to sanitary towels, build separate toilets blocks and Girls' Rooms, so that they aren't forced to miss school when they have their period. 

Living with HIV, positively

Women’s cooperatives provide a safe haven for women and girls living with HIV.

Members have often been stigmatised and shunned by their own communities and the cooperatives give them an income and status. Here women also learn about their rights and how the law can protect their children from early marriage and polygamy.

Supporting people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic

ActionAid's emergency coronavirus response has reached more than 29,000 people in Rwanda. This has included the distribution of facemasks, handwashing facilities and other hygiene supplies, along with food packages and cash transfers for people living in poverty

The pandemic has increased pressure on the poorest women and girls in Rwanda. That's why we've been working to prevent gender-based violence and help women to report cases of violence; we’re also been running public awareness-raising campaigns to prevent the increasing burden of unpaid care and domestic work on women. 

Disasters in Rwanda

Rwandan genocide

In Rwanda, in the space of 100 days during 1994, between 800,000 and one million people - were killed by extremist members of the Hutu community (the majority ethnic group).

They were targeting members of the minority Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

Up to one in five people in Rwanda were killed in the massacre, mainly by organised militias. 

This was one of Africa’s defining moments, and its ramifications are still felt today, as so many people were killed or lost family members.

Supporting sustainable livelihoods through cooperatives

Clementine, 31, is a member of an ActionAid-supported women's cooperative group in Rwanda, which runs trainings and capacity building areas like advocacy, modern methods of agriculture, women rights and economic empowerment.

At the Hugukirwa Muko cooperative, she has learned new agricultural skills which allows her to support her three children. 

"I have also since learnt how to save and financially empower myself," she said.

I am proud to be empowered not only financially but with knowledge and confidence."

Clementine, member of a women's cooperative group in Rwanda

Jean Bizimana/ActionAid

Jaqueline is a member of an ActionAid-supported cooperative

Laura Elizabeth Pohl/ActionAid

Helping women to rebuild their lives

In the wake of Rwanda's genocide, ActionAid supports women to rebuild their lives and communities, including by establishing and training women's cooperatives.

ActionAid helped the Tuzamure Ageseke cooperative to buy corn-milling machines, we helped build a chicken coop, and we give small loans to cooperative members.

This helps women like Nyiraneza to develop financial security and a sustainable livelihood. 

Nyiraneza said life is hard after the genocide, but she is able to get by with the emotional and financial support that the cooperative provides.

Safe spaces for children to learn

Across Rwanda, ActionAid has helped to build early childhood development centres, and fund teachers' salaries, so that children have a safe place to learn and play

These centres help children like 4-year-old Isimbi eat nutritious meals, and have a bright start in life.

They also help to reduce unpaid care work: mothers can leave their children at the centre, giving them time to take paid jobs, benefitting the whole community.  

See more about our work supporting education

4-year-old Isimbi attends an ActionAid-supported early childhood development centre

Jean Bizimana/ActionAid



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Top image: Women running small businesses at a market in Rwanda. Michela Chimenti/ActionAid

Page updated 10 May 2024