Rwanda has seen unprecedented economic growth post-genocide with the main contributing sectors being tourism, minerals, and agriculture among others.
With over 70 % of the Rwandan population living in rural areas, and dependent on mainly subsistence farming, productive work for the majority of the population is seasonal and tied to the agricultural seasons, employed work is mainly casual and households have livelihood strategies.
Although women make up the majority workforce in rural farms, they are heavily involved in unpaid care work making them economically disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts.
Efforts have been undergoing to make interventions aimed at reducing and redistributing unpaid care work undertaken by women in rural areas in Rwanda thereby improving their quality of life and increasing their empowerment.
Despite a progressive gender legal and policy framework, Rwanda remains a profoundly patriarchal society with reproductive work feminised.
Women have little say in political decision-making despite the high proportion of women elected to political office with women members of parliament following the party line rather than representing the interests of women.
Rwanda’s National Women’s National Council(NWC), a mass membership organisation that all women over 18 years are members of has little power or influence.
There is limited policy support for women’s economic empowerment, no specific policy promoting it, inadequate financing of programmes, poor coordination across sectors, and a lack of clarity among policymakers and funders on who has overall responsibility.
Despite the fact that Government policy is to encourage women to engage in paid employment, women still do the bulk of unpaid care work and find it difficult to balance reproductive and productive work creating economic inequality.
Economic empowerment should enable women make decisions about their life because they are no longer dependent on men to provide for them and their dependent children.
However, wives are often dependent on husbands because of the cultural expectation that women do the unpaid care work, while men are the economic providers and makes women less likely to have remunerated employment than their husbands although only a minority of both have off-farm employment.
Measuring the impact of Interventions to reduce and redistribute unpaid care work for women in Rwanda
The Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR-Rwanda) and Réseau des Femmes Oeuvrant pour le Développement Rural with funding from Canada’s International Development Research Centre(IDRC) are implementing a three-year project (March 2021- February 2024) on “Assessing the Impact and Scalability of Participatory Home Grown Programs on Reducing and Redistributing Unpaid Care work among Women in Rwamagana, Burera, Gicumbi, Musanze, and Nyabihu Districts”.
On March 22, 2023, IPAR Rwanda and Réseau des Femmes Oeuvrant pour le Développement Rural with funding from IDRC organised a half-day workshop to disseminate findings from the project’s baseline survey which was conducted in the five districts.
Participants during the workshop to disseminate the findings from the baseline survey
Findings from the baseline survey show that wives estimated that they do, on average, 63% of the unpaid care work and that their husbands do 25% with another member of the household doing 12%.
Husbands agreed with wives about the proportion of unpaid care work their wives do with the average being 64% but estimated, on average, that they do a larger proportion of the work than their wives estimated they do, 35%.
Asked who looked after their young children when they were working away from home, 31% of wives whose children were not usually attending school said that they move their children but only 3.3% of men said that they did. 93% of men relied on their wives to look after young children not attending school when they are working away from home, but only 35% of wives relied on their husbands to do the same.
The project is part of Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women (GrOW) East Africa program funded by IDRC. The program’s key objective is to contribute towards a positive change in improving the lives of marginalized women and girls in East Africa.