Women's Economic Empowerment in Rwanda


In Rwanda there is overwhelming evidence that women contribute to economic development in various ways and are the primary caregivers in households.

In recent years significant steps have been made by government and other organisations to promote women’s economic empowerment. This has redefined their roles and responsibilities in families and communities. Balancing paid work and unpaid care responsibilities is a daunting task for most women in Rwanda.

ActionAid Rwanda’s unpaid care work stories of change

ActionAid’s unpaid care work (UCW) Stories of Change are a critical learning tool, which help in understanding how and why change happens in the places where ActionAid works. The following UCW Stories of Change come from ActionAid Rwanda’s Women’s Rights to Sustainable Livelihoods project.

ActionAid International's Women’s Rights to Sustainable Livelihoods project aims to pilot practical solutions to reduce the unpaid care work of women smallholder farmers, increase their access to, and control over, food and resources, and improve the environment in which they farm.

As one of the things women farmers wanted in order to reduce their unpaid work was tanks for rainwater, harvesting stories from Mukantwali Euphrasie and Immaculee Bugenimana reveal the impact this has had on reducing their daily workload, with Immaculee’s story further showing how unpaid care work impacts on elderly women. 

Read Mukantwali Euphrasie and Immaculee Bugenimana’s stories to find out more:


File mukantwali_euphrasie.docx
Mukantwali Euphrasie's UCW story of change


File immaculee_bugenimana.docx
Mukantwali Euphrasie's UCW story of change

Sustainable livelihoods project supports women to reduce unpaid care work

Kibirizi Sector is a rural area located in Gisagara District, in the Southern Province of Rwanda. The area has very limited land for farming and suffers from irregular rainfall and droughts. These climactic conditions affect crop yields, leading to food insecurity and malnutrition - particularly for women and children.

Traditional patriarchal structures in Rwanda imply that household activities - such as cooking, sewing, collecting firewood and water, and childcare - are solely carried out by women. This work is often not visible, so is not recognized or redistributed at family, community and national levels. In Kibirizi Sector, the lack of childcare centres prevented women from taking part in productive farming and other income-generating, political and social activities.

Abishyizehamwe is a women smallholder farmers’ group that was formed in March 2013 to mobilize community women for the promotion of sustainable agriculture practices. The group was formed under the ActionAid Fund Leadership Opportunities for Women (FLOW) project. Abishyizehamwe opened an Early Childhood Development Centre to enable women to have more time to take part in income generating activities, and improve their families’ livelihoods.

Leoncie Niyonsenga, a 40-year-old mother, has been a member of Abishyizehamwe since its inception in 2013. Leoncie’s major occupation is farming, but prior to the intervention of this project she spent almost of her time caring for her six children, which prevented her from engaging in activities to improve her family’s livelihood.

This document tells Leoncie's story and explains more about how Abishyizehamwe and the FLOW project has impacted on the community.

The research

Our analysis contributes to recommendations about how a ‘double boon’ can be created - decent paid work that provides support for unpaid care work responsibilities, along with removal of barriers to entry and retention in the labour market. We also researched the social organisation of care and the balance between paid work and unpaid care work.

Research uptake and advocacy

IDS is working in partnership with BRAC-REU and ActionAid Rwanda to ensure uptake of our findings across organisations and beyond the project, so that it feeds directly back into women's economic empowerment programmes and interventions in Rwanda. 

Two district and one national level workshops have been held to disseminate and validate findings from the research. 

Workshop reports

Case studies

Our research seeks to learn from the experience of women benefiting from a government-led programme in Huye district, and those participating in an ActionAid inititiave. Our series of case studies from Rwanda will be available soon.

WEE programmes

The Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP) is implemented by the Ministry of Local Government and is envisaged as a safety net by linking poor people to the broader market. Both women and men in poor households are benefiting from the programme. The programme has three components: public works, direct support and the Ubudehe credit scheme.

Improving food security and economic opportunities for women and their families in Muko Sector is implemented by ActionAid Rwanda. It supports 1500 disadvantaged smallholder farmers to improve their food security and gain greater economic empowerment through increased agricultural profitability.

Programmatic notes

  • ActionAid's Food Security and Economic Empowerment Programme in Muko Sector, Northern Rwanda: Guidelines for Achieving the Double Boon
    Rwanda, August 2017
  • Making Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme Public Works Care-Responsive
    Rwanda, October 2017

National report

'You Cannot Live Without Money': Women Balancing Paid Work and Unpaid Care Work in Rwanda

Murphy-McGreevey, Clare; Roelen, Keetie; Nyamulinda, Birasa,  August 2017

Rwanda's recent history has seen a variety of government and non-government programmes that have helped increase women’s political participation, awareness of rights and access to finance, and women’s involvement in off-farm activities and other forms of paid work, particularly in rural areas. However, balancing paid and unpaid work remains a daunting task for the majority of women surveyed in this research study. Those who are struggling to achieve a positive balance between paid work and care work find it is due to working long hours, far from home, with little or no childcare support.

The report argues that despite men being encouraged to become more involved in care activities, there is a need for advocacy at the household level about sharing care activities. In particular: men need to support women with agricultural cultivation and household tasks. There is also an emphasis on the need for redistribution of care responsibilities from families to other actors: Women expressed a desire for help from the community for care of the children; and more childcare centres to be set up by the state and NGOs to enable them to go to paid work. They would also benefit from the government providing health insurance and assistance with housing and children’s education, especially for families living in poverty. This report provides evidence on the need for creation of quality work to be nearer home, and for practical improvements in stoves and water delivery in order to ease the drudgery of the care responsibilities on women.


Latest updates

Our first two video stories from India and Rwanda are now live, compiling aspects of women's daily work into compelling visuals and first-person narratives.

The new global synthesis report 'No Time to Rest' is now launched. It finds that national and local level women’s economic empowerment initiatives in developing countries are failing to capture the full physical, emotional and economic costs to women of balancing paid work with unpaid care duties.  It warns that unless the backbreaking drudgery of water carrying, fuel collection, cooking and caring is urgently addressed future global progress on women’s rights and gender equality could stall.

12.09.16Participatory methods in mixed methods research – a methodological treasure

Since the inception of the GrOW project, on unpaid care work and women´s economic empowerment, the team mixed three strands of research methods – qualitative, quantitative and participatory.What added value do participatory methods bring to mixed methods research? Kas Sempere writes about the particular professional challenges of methods in the project taking place in India, Nepal, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Sustainable development and economic empowerment


Fund Leadership Opportunities for Women (FLOW) is a women's economic empowerment project implemented by ActionAid and partners in Rwanda with financial support from the Netherlands government. It's being implemented in Nyanza and Gisagara districts supporting 2,400 vulnerable women with sustainable agriculture alternatives to spur their economic growth.