Rwanda | ActionAid UK


ActionAid started working in Rwanda in 1996, following the civil war and genocide that tore the country apart. We support genocide survivors and vulnerable communities — women in particular - to grow sustainable food through cooperatives. Our child sponsorship programmes ensure that children have everything they need to thrive. 

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. 

  • 50
    Nearly half of all women experience sexual violence by their 19th birthday.
  • 63
    63% of the population live below the poverty line of less than $1.25 a day.
  • 12
    12% 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. 

Menstrual Hygiene

We ensure that girls like Jeanne stay in school when they have their period by providing a safe room run by a matron where they have access to sanitary towels. Jeanne, 14, says: “The safe room has helped us a lot like previously we could miss school so many times when you have your period. We don’t miss school anymore if we get our period, we come here, we shower, we use the equipment like pads then we go back to class.”

Photo: Jennifer Huxta/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 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.


Photographers: Marius van Graan/ActionAid, Sulah Nuwamanya/ActionAid.