The Promise and the Reality: Women's Empowerment in Rwanda

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 418
Oral Presentation
Pamela ABBOTT , Sociology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
This paper will discuss the reality of the lives of the vast majority of women in Rwanda, a society that remains deeply patriarchal.  Rwanda has become known for its progressive stance on women’s empowerment by becoming the first country in the world to achieve MDG target 3 for more than 50 per cent of members of parliament being female. The 2003 Constitution guarantees gender equality and the country’s Vision 2020 and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy make strong commitments to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Girls now outperform boys in primary and junior secondary education, employment legislation outlaws gender decimation in employment and at the workplace and 30 per cent of senior positions are reserved for women.  There have been progressive reforms including legislation on gender based violence and land reform giving women the same rights to own land as men. Drawing on data from the 2010/11 Integrated Living Conditions and Household Survey, the 2012 Rwanda Demographic Health Survey, the 2012 FinScope Survey as well as quantitative and qualitative data collected by the author over the last five years the author will look at the reality of the lives of ordinary Rwandan  women. The majority of Rwandan women work as small farmers, dependent workers on family farms and as agricultural labourers. They have not benefited from Government programmes to transform agriculture and create more non-farm employment to the same extent as  men.  They are poorly educated with high rates of illiteracy, lack access to basic productive resources and face the double burden of productive and reproductive labour. Women are expected to be submissive and there are high rates of domestic violence.