Why we work in Rwanda
In the 1990s, civil war and genocide tore the country 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.
But around 63% of people in Rwanda still live below the poverty line. Women and children in particular have suffered the effects of war and often struggle to meet their basic needs.
50Nearly half of all women experience sexual violence by their 19th birthday.
6363% of the population live below the poverty line of less than $1.25 a day.
1212% of children are underweight.
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. Almost half of all women experience sexual violence by their 19th birthday and there are few support services for survivors.
Agriculture is the main industry in Rwanda. Farmers, mostly women, make up 85% of Rwanda’s working population. 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 child sponsorship helps communities to provide everything children need to thrive. We build early childhood development centres across the country to provide safe places for pre-school children while their mums are working.
In schools, we help girls get access to sanitary towels 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.
While it is illegal to have more than one wife in Rwanda, polygamous marriages are still fairly common. This can cause problems for second or third wives, as typically the first wife inherits all land and income upon the death of their husband.
How we’re changing lives for good in Rwanda
Read stories of women and girls we’ve helped.
Child sponsorship in Rwanda
More than half of people in Rwanda are under the age of 18.
ActionAid child sponsorship works closely with communities to make a long-term difference to children. We help children go to school to get a quality education so they can break the cycle of poverty. As of October 2016, there were 1,883 children in Rwanda being sponsored by ActionAid.
Since a feeding programme was introduced at eight-year-old Lacherie's school, her health and that of and many of her classmates has measurably improved.
ActionAid sponsorship also paid for a cow for Lacherie's school and a vegetable garden. These help prevent malnourishment and also generate income to make improvements to classrooms.Sponsor a child in Rwanda
Supporting widows with HIV
Clodine Nizeyimana, 34, is a member of Shingiro Women’s Group for widows with HIV.
“People wouldn’t even shake our hand,” Clodine recalls. “They wouldn’t share a farm plot with us, or drink from the same cup. They thought they would catch HIV from just touching us. It was a terrible, terrible, time.
"ActionAid supported us and encouraged us. They trained us in our rights, so that no one could abuse us anymore. The training gave us strength to bring other HIV survivors on board and helped us help other people to be strong. We share everything – that’s how we remain strong. It feels good to support each other.”Read our latest blogs about Rwanda
Women helping women through cooperatives
Single mum Beatrice Nyirahitimana, 23, lives with her children Confiance and Queen. After her father was killed in the genocide, Beatrice went to live with an uncle who became abusive. At 19 she ran away and, until she joined Nyanza Women’s Cooperative, Beatrice was trying to make ends meet on her own.
“The women in the cooperative are good advisors. If I have financial problems I can get money from the cooperative. I solve that problem and then I bring back the money. It’s good to be trusted by other women. It has changed my life. Since I’ve had my women’s rights training I understand that no one can violate my rights in any way.”
ActionAid supported Beatrice’s co-op to make bricks, farm mushrooms, raise animals and grow vegetables to eat and sell. “Since I got the cow I now have fertiliser for my garden, a bigger harvest and I can save. The cow has changed my children’s life because it means they have milk, which is nutritious."Learn more about our local initiatives