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.
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.
Disasters in Rwanda
Women, who constitute the majority in the informal sector and low-wage earners, will be hardest hit by the crisis in Rwanda.
Restrictions on the movement of people are severely impacting farmers and small business owners, meaning many families are finding it difficult to meet even basic needs.
Meanwhile, the burden of unpaid work tends to fall on women and girls, including caring for elderly family members and children.
ActionAid are distributing food packages including rice and flour to vulnerable families in Rwanda, as well as hygiene products to help stop the spread of the virus.
We're also working to protect women and girls' rights and prevent gender-based violence through awareness-raising projects, including community radio programmes, TV shows and online messages.
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."
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.