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.


Working papers

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

Rohwerder, B,; Müller, C,; Nyamulinda, B,; Chopra, D,; Zambelli, E,; Hossain, N,,  November 2017

This paper summarises the findings of mixed-methods research that was carried out in Rwanda as part of the ‘Balancing Unpaid Care Work and Paid Work: Successes, Challenges and Lessons for Women’s Economic Empowerment Programmes and Policies’ research project (2015–17). It reflects the voices and experiences of women and their household members participating in women’s economic empowerment (WEE) programmes across four sites in the rural districts of Musanze and Huye. Participants in two WEE programmes are represented, namely the state-run Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), and ActionAid Rwanda’s Food Security and Economic Empowerment Programme. The question addressed by the research was: How can women’s economic empowerment (WEE) policies and programmes take unpaid care work into account in order to enable women’s economic empowerment to be optimised, shared across families and sustained across generations?

This study and its findings indicate that women are the primary caregivers in families, although older children in particular and spouses to some extent also engage in some care tasks. There is little help with care from outside the nuclear family. Women’s paid work opportunities are more limited than men’s because of gender norms around certain types of work and because they have less time to find out about paid work opportunities due to their involvement in care work. Women may do more than one job, and much paid work is temporary, occasional and irregular, as well as seasonal. Women’s income from paid work is important; but, whether sole earnings or combined, it is not always enough to meet household needs.

Balancing paid and unpaid work is a daunting task for the majority of women. Both care and paid work are often physically challenging and time consuming. Women have little time for leisure and personal use. Women who are the sole adult earners and carers for their families are struggling the most. Women who are relatively better off tend to live in families which have other adults also contributing to providing income and care.

Programmatic notes

ActionAid's Food Security and Economic Empowerment Programme in Muko Sector, Northern Rwanda: Guidelines for Achieving the Double Boon

Kennedy, Liam, Roelen, Keetie,  August 2017

Despite an impressive socioeconomic transformation over the past few decades, Rwanda ranks as one of the least developed countries in the world. Today, over 75 per cent of the population remain dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, of which women constitute a disproportionate majority. ActionAid Rwanda's (AAR) Improving Food Security and Economic Opportunities for Women project in Muko sector, Musanze District in the Northern Province aims to combat these intersecting deprivations. AAR’s project aims 'to enable 1,200 of the most vulnerable women smallholder farmers and 300 vulnerable male smallholder farmers to improve their food security and economic security through increased agricultural profitability'.

This note examines how the AAR programme has contributed to heightened economic empowerment amongst female beneficiaries and the extent to which it may have promoted a ‘double boon’; that is, paid work that empowers women and provides more support for their unpaid care work responsibilities, rather than a double burden of additional hard work without taking into account women’s heavy care responsibilities.

Making Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme Public Works Care-Responsive

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

Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), which comprises cash transfers, public works and financial services, aims to eradicate extreme poverty by 2020. Public works, the focus of the research outlined in this note, provides paid employment for extremely poor households with at least one able-bodied adult. The aim of the VUP is for the very poorest to ‘graduate’ out of poverty through the programme.

This note examines how VUP Public Works can avoid a ‘double burden’ on working women and instead generate a ‘double boon’ by providing paid work that empowers women and supports their unpaid care work responsibilities. The research was carried out using a mixed-methods approach in four sites. The focus of this note is on Simbi and Gishamvu in Huye District, where women were participating in VUP. Findings of the research show that that women strongly value paid work, prioritising income-generating opportunities over care work. Wages earned pay for a range of essential needs, such as food, education, and health-related expenses. Finally, those women who are able to balance paid work and unpaid care work benefit from family support and sharing of care responsibilities.

However the note also highlights the barriers to the ‘double boon’: VUP Public Works can intensify the double burden of paid and care work and can increase women’s time poverty, with negative consequences for women’s physical and psychosocial wellbeing; cultural gender norms still place the responsibility for household tasks with women; and the conditions of VUP Public Works – poor pay, difficult labour conditions, and distance from the worksite – all increase the drudgery of women’s work.