Twenty Years Post-Genocide: Women Engender Change in Rwanda, Karen Sherman

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INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security

Twenty Years Post-Genocide Women Engender Change in Rwanda Karen Sherman May 2014

Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security

The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security is committed to researching the impact of women’s participation in peace and security efforts.

Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 20057

On April 7th, Rwanda commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the genocide, during which nearly a million Tutsi and moderate Hutu were brutally murdered over a hundred days of unimaginable violence and inhumanity. This milestone of the genocide affords an opportunity to reflect on Rwanda’s progress over the last two decades as the nation remembers its past and looks towards its future. This Information2Action considers the role of women in the country’s efforts to re-build, with particular regard to their economic participation, and the challenges and opportunities for women to impact Rwanda’s forward development. Rwanda Post-Genocide Twenty years on, the vast human toll of the tragedy is still visible throughout much of the country, although it is easy to miss or dismiss in the heart of Kigali with all the trappings of a more prosperous, developed nation. Much of the dire poverty resides or has been forced to the outskirts, swept clean from the city’s immaculate center. Rwanda today appears safe and clean. Society is productive and orderly, and largely corruption free.1 Lauded as the second fastest growing economy in East Africa, with just over 8% real growth, Rwanda has become a center for trade and investment in the region. Rwanda’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita stands at approximately $600, about triple what it was ten years ago.2 Adding to its growing stature and relevance, Rwanda recently ascended to one of the rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council, a seat they last held in 1994 during the genocide. The current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, has led the government since 2000, after serving as a key rebel leader in the Rwandan Patriotic Front. A strong, exacting leader, Kagame has

1 "Africa's Singapore?" The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 25 Feb. 2012. Web. 01 May 2014. 2

"GNI per Capita, Atlas Method (current US$)." Data. World Bank, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.

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INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security restored rule of law and accountability throughout all levels of government and society during his tenure. In recent years, Rwanda has made measurable gains in areas such as maternal health and child survival, coming in first among 48 African countries in progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, and today serves as a regional model for human development.3 Despite significant strides towards recovery and growth, Rwanda continues to face significant challenges including, but not limited to, sociopolitical reconciliation and democratic governance. For example, although Kagame has spearheaded a remarkable socioeconomic rejuvenation post-genocide, he has also gained a reputation for his authoritarian leadership style and garnered widespread criticism for suppression of political opposition and restrictions on civil liberties. Moreover, while tangible, measurable progress has been made in Rwanda over the last two decades, the country currently ranks 167th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index.4 Far too many of its citizens live day to day, hand to mouth, most especially women, whose status is compounded by decades of poverty, patriarchy and exclusion. The genocide was particularly devastating for women. Rape was systematically used as a weapon of war. At least 250,000 women and girls were sexually violated, tortured and mutilated, according to the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Rwanda.5 Women fought alongside men in the Rwanda Patriotic Army to bring an end to the genocide and helped establish the new government. In the aftermath, with seventy percent of the population being female -- mostly widows and single heads of household -- women bore a disproportionate burden to rebuild their homes, families, communities and country. As such, women were in a position to renegotiate their rights and roles. Today, women are at the top of Rwanda’s development agenda and play a vital role in nation building. Comprising just over half the population based on 2012 Census figures, women are actively encouraged to assume leadership positions in politics and business and share relatively equal access to health care and education.6 The phrase 'abore ba Kagame,' literally translated as the “women of Kagame,” has become commonplace in Rwanda due to the president's leadership on women's rights. The constitution requires a thirty percent quota for women in government and provides a strong platform for gender mainstreaming. As a result, an unprecedented number of women, sixty-four percent, have been elected or appointed to decision 3

Frank Kanyesigye. "Rwanda Ranks Top in MDGs Progress." The New Times [Kigali] 29 May 2014, 3068th ed.: 1+. Print. 4

Rwanda. Rep. N.p.: UNDP, 2013. Print. The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. “Exploring Community Perceptions and Women’s Experiences of Violence against Women and Use of Services in Bugesera District, Eastern Province, Rwanda.” Rwanda’s Women’s Network. November 2011. 1. 6 UN Women, and United Nations Rwanda. National Gender Statistics Report 2013. Rep. N.p.: National Institute for Gender Statistics, 2013. Print. 5

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INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security making positions; the highest percentage in the world. This is a major accomplishment, given there were only a handful of women serving in the national government prior to the 1994 genocide. Vision 2020, a blueprint for the country's social, economic and political advancement, prioritizes gender equality, as does the country's gender policy. Both are aimed at integrating women across all levels of society.7 Rwanda complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 both in providing for women’s participation in peacebuilding and for the protection of women’s rights.8 Rwanda is one of only 52 countries that criminalizes marital rape. A police hotline is available to report cases of rape and abuse and actual jail sentences for perpetrators. One-Stop-Centers in Rwanda link the police with the ministries of health, justice, gender and defense to provide coordinated support and services to victims of violence.9 Investments in forging a strong legislative framework are starting to pay dividends. Women are allowed to own land and inherit property and pass on inheritance rights to their children. When they marry, they can choose to hold assets separate from their spouses. Girls in particular have made measurable gains, based on the 2013 Gender Statistics Report.10 Literacy rates for females aged 15 and above are nearly 80%, even higher for adolescents, and girls now participate equally in secondary school at higher rates than neighboring countries in Africa, where girls’ secondary school enrollments often lag significantly behind that of boys. A Model for Advancing Women and Girls? Is Rwanda a model for other nations in terms of women and girls’ advancement? To a certain extent, it appears to be so. In others though, it still seems to be missing the mark. Due to the Ministry of Gender’s policy leadership, the gender equity architecture in Rwanda is relatively strong. It works in coordination with other agencies such as the National Women's Council, the Ministry’s implementation arm, and the Gender Monitoring Office, a government watchdog group that monitors compliance, conducts research and gender audits and tracks gender-based violence, to translate policies into practice. Implementation, however, remains fragmented and inconsistent. While women have made huge inroads into government, men still retain most of the key decision 7 Republic of Rwanda. Rwanda Vision 2020. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print. 8 Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. "In-­‐country and Global Monitoring of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325." Global Network of Women Peacebuilders. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. 9 Republic of Rwanda. National Scaling-­‐up Strategy for One Stop Centers in Rwanda. 2012. Print. 10 UN Women, and United Nations Rwanda. National Gender Statistics Report 2013. Rep. N.p.: National Institute for Gender Statistics, 2013. Print. © May 2014 Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security


INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security making and governance positions. Patriarchy, as well as traditional gender-based roles and cultural norms, continue to limit women's status in the family and community. This is often the case for poor and excluded women who either don't know or are unable to claim their rights. Especially in rural areas, knowledge and enforcement of laws and protections are persistent problems. Recent data affirms that a “large gap between Rwandan policies on gender equality – which are very progressive – and the lived daily realities of women and men, as well as their attitudes toward these policies.11 A 2011 study by the Gender Monitoring Office, for example, shows that the principle of equal spousal rights is not always reflected in practice. It found that while 42% of surveyed women report being married, only 28% are legally married, and the distinction is important.12 Cohabitation does not convey the same rights, a loophole that has proven extremely harmful to women. In the absence of a civil union, which may be cost prohibitive or resisted for other reasons, women may be viewed as concubines or visitors in the home. If the relationship ends, women lack the legal standing to pursue their rights to property and inheritance or child custody. There are also health implications including greater exposure to high risk behaviors, such as multiple sex partners and unprotected sex as well as an increased risk of domestic violence.13 Over the last decade, women have more access to economic opportunities than ever before. Even so, more than eighty-five percent of economically active women are still engaged in small scale or subsistence agriculture.14 While contributing to household income and food security (an on-going problem in a densely populated country of just over 12 million), income levels do not correspond with the time and effort invested in farming. One of the more successful women-led agricultural cooperatives, Abajeneza -recognized in 2012 by the Ministry of Labor for its high quality maize, market orientation and environmental protection -- experienced a huge drop off in membership because there was no cash to pay members, even though women were putting in a full work day or more during harvest time. As a result, the majority of working women continue to live in poverty. They also suffer the double burden of work and family. In addition to primary child care responsibilities, they still do most of the cooking, shopping, water fetching and other time-consuming household chores, according to the Gender Statistics Report.15 This 11 Promundo and CARE International in Rwanda 2012. Journeys of Transformation: A Training Manual for Engaging Men as Allies in Women’s Economic Empowerment. Washington, DC and Kigali, Rwanda: Promundo and CARE. Print. 18. 12 The Republic of Rwanda. Gender Impact Assessment of the Law No 22/99 of 12/11/1999 to Supplement Book One of the Civil Code and to Institute Part Five regarding Matrimonial Regimes Liberalities to Successions. Rep. Kigali: n.p., 2011. Print. 13 Karen Sherman. "Legal Marriage." Huffington Post 12 Mar. 2013: n. pag. Print. 14 Strengthening Women's Access to Agricultural Extension Services in Rwanda. Rep. N.p.: UN Women, n.d. Print. 15 UN Women, and United Nations Rwanda. National Gender Statistics Report 2013. © May 2014 Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security


INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security limits women’s ability to engage in other types of productive work but also their overall empowerment and agency. There is a measurable link between economic independence and women's enhanced status in the family and community. When women are income earners they gain both voice and choice, many for the first time. It is a global game changer, with the potential to erode some of the more systemic challenges that continue to hold women back and hinder growth in many conflict-affected countries like Rwanda. “When women contribute family income, social norms in even the most traditional societies begin to evolve, with husbands and brothers often becoming champions for the new breadwinners among them.”16 In 2012, global consulting firm KPMG led an assessment of the organization Women for Women International’s program that provides job and life skills to socially excluded women in Rwanda and Congo. Through interviews combined with a review of "corroborating data," the assessment found "significant changes" in male attitudes toward women, greater economic opportunities for program graduates and other women, decreases in domestic and sexual violence and improved health and wellness for women and their children. The changes were primarily attributed to women's economic empowerment. 17 Increasing Women’s Economic Agency Over the past twenty years, women have been instrumental to Rwanda’s postgenocide recovery and development, both directly in terms of their economic and political participation and indirectly, by inspiring the confidence of international donors and investors, even assuaging some of its harshest critics that Rwanda is indeed on the right path. However, more can still be done to facilitate their empowerment if women are to play a larger role in the country’s transition to middle income status, a stated goal of Vision 2020. To that end, the government aims to move a large percentage of women into offfarm jobs and commercial farming over the next five years. To galvanize that shift, several nation-wide interventions have been devised including: the Second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, which sets the framework for broadbased economic growth; the Skills, Employability and Entrepreneurship Program,18 to address major skill gaps in key areas linked to the strategy; and, the Women and Youth 16 Gayle T. Lemmon. Entrepreneurship in Postconflict Zones. Working paper. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2012. Print. 2. 17 KPMG. Social Investment Report: A Look at Women for Women International. Rep. New York: n.p., 2012. Print. 18 African Development Bank. The ADF Approves US$ 38 Million to Support Rwanda's Progress in Skills, Entrepreneurship and Jobs. © May 2014 Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security


INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security Access to Finance Program, to increase access to finance for small and medium sized enterprises, as well as “significantly underserved” women and youth.19A five-year national employment program is currently awaiting cabinet approval. Government agencies like the Workforce Development Authority, which sets vocational standards, develops curricula and delivers skills training in priority areas such as agri-business, hospitality/tourism and tech services, and the Business Development Fund, which offers capacity building and financial access services, are leading implementation with support from international donor countries and partners. Their collective focus vis-à-vis women is to “train women in hands on skills and entrepreneurship” and, ideally, move them into cooperatives or solidarity groups where they can do business and/or access credit together on reasonable terms. Women, for the most part, are not being trained for formal employment as opportunities remain limited.20 Although these programs are well intentioned, many of the economic incentive programs offered by the government, private sector and international agencies remain out of reach for poor and more excluded women, who continue to lag well behind men in terms of access to needed skills, inputs, markets and capital. “We have a big legacy to overcome in terms of marginalizing women,” says Jean Bosco Murangira, the director for women’s economic empowerment at the Ministry of Gender. “Some poor women are benefitting from the programs but not all. Demand is greater than supply.” “Many women became more vulnerable or traumatized as a result of the genocide and are still struggling,” says Murangira. To help bridge this gap, the government and others must take a more direct and integrated approach to services that address the multiple constraints to women’s economic development. Poor, rural and otherwise vulnerable women require more targeted, hands-on support and assistance to overcome a variety of barriers to their economic participation. Too often, there is resistance in the family and society to a woman's voice and agency. Too often, her value is weighed against the number of children she delivers. In far too many households, physical, sexual and psychological violence continues unchecked. A 2011 study completed by the Rwanda Women's Network revealed that financial dependence on husbands as well as cultural barriers prevent women from seeking assistance in cases of violence and abuse.21 To its credit, the government appears committed to tackling some of the more entrenched norms and restrictions that continue to impede progress for women and 19 “Women and Youth Access to Finance Program.” Republic of Rwanda. 2012. 20 Jean Bosco Murangira. "Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion." Personal interview. 02 Apr. 2014. 21 “Exploring Community Perceptions and Women’s Experiences of Violence against Women and Use of Services in Bugesera District, Eastern Province, Rwanda.” Rwanda’s Women’s Network. November 2011. 9. © May 2014 Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security


INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security girls, mostly through community mobilization and public awareness campaigns and a keen focus on educating future generations. They and others also recognize the critical need to engage men as allies in women’s economic empowerment.22 Evolving norms and behavior requires a long-term attitudinal shift. For this to take hold, men as well as women must equally be seen as advocates for systemic change. "Men have always been exploiting women, not for the good of the family but for their own good, and it’s having a devastating impact on women and children," says Edouard Munyamaliza, Executive Secretary of the Men’s Resource Centre.23 Munyamaliza supports a national campaign to mobilize Rwandan men to take action on gender-based violence and inequality. Due to the efforts of the Rwanda Men's Resource Centre and organizations like Promundo, there are greater numbers of men in Rwanda working to support women's leadership. Both groups train and sensitize men as advocates for ending violence against women and promoting women’s full and equal participation in society. On the economic front, there is some evidence of progress. Largely due to economic necessity, women are among the most dynamic entrepreneurs in Rwanda today. The Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs, one of ten feeder chambers to the Private Sector Federation, claims 1,500 mostly dues paying members across seven different sectors, including industry, commerce and services and tourism, with the bulk coming from agriculture and arts and crafts. This is up from 1,000 members less than a year ago.24 “We need to move down to reach women in agriculture and in rural areas to give them business information to access markets, what’s coming up, how to position themselves. What’s in demand,” says Grace Tesire Ntambara, Executive Director of the Chamber. “Women who need it most don’t use (guarantee) funds because they don’t know they exist or how to access them. It’s too complicated, there are too many steps.” She recommends simplifying the program and reducing paperwork. “Women need the confidence to go for it.”25 Women are beginning to make inroads into other sectors as well. More than three thousand women now own their own manufacturing businesses, compared with only 355 owned by men, according to the Gender Statistics Report. “Unlike in the past, women are now more daring and trying out business ownership, especially in the field of

22 Promundo and CARE International. Journeys of Transformation. 21-­‐22. 23 Edouard Munyamuliza. "Rwanda Men's Resource Center." Personal interview. 17 Sept. 2012. 24 Grace Tesire Ntambara. "Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs." Personal interview. 09 Apr. 2014. 25

Ntambara, 2014.

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INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security manufacturing,” said Jessie Umutoni, a business owner interviewed for an article in The New Times.26 Beyond the government, greater leadership is needed from the private sector to continue to propel the economy and women forward. Scalable models for job creation, for example, are sorely lacking yet critical for sustained economic growth as well as ongoing peace and stability. Despite intensive recruitment efforts, only a handful of global corporations have invested in Rwanda to date, even fewer in women’s entrepreneurship and job creation. Marriott International is one of the companies investing in women in Rwanda. Marriott has joined forces with the Akilah Institute for Women in a job training partnership for their new hotel, the Kigali Marriott, expected to open in the next two years. Although construction was well behind schedule, Marriott preceded to hire more than thirty-five Akilah graduates to train and work in Dubai and has plans to expand the partnership in the future. “Other corporations are waiting for Marriott to test the waters, but it will take time,” says Akilah CEO Elizabeth Dearborn-Hughes.27 Additionally, Kate Spade is launching a new product line out of Rwanda working with a local women’s cooperative and Gahaya Links, a privately owned Rwandan handcraft company, has linked with local and international development organizations to create hundreds of jobs for widows and war survivors. These kinds of partnerships, based on a shared value proposition, have the potential to advance both women and business as well as the country more broadly. Many more are needed. Companies that invest are entitled to a “range of benefits and incentives” as per the country’s Investment Code.28 The World Bank’s latest ‘Doing Business Report’ ranks Rwanda among the top African countries in terms of places to do business.29 Women stand to gain directly in terms of their employment, and indirectly in terms of their empowerment. “Economic growth, by reducing poverty and increasing opportunity, can indeed have an important and positive impact on gender equality,” writes Esther Duflo.30 The greatest beneficiaries, however, may be families, as women overwhelmingly re-invest their income in improving their health, education and nutrition.

26 Maria Kaitesi. "Report: Women Dominate Manufacturing Businesses." The New Times [Kigali] 14 May 2013: 1. Print. 27 Elizabeth Dearborn Hughes. "Akilah Institute." Telephone interview. 16 Apr. 2014. 28 "Investment Incentives & Tax Codes." Rwanda High Commission United Kingdom Investment Incentives & Tax Codes. Rwanda High Commission UK, n.d. Web. 29 "Rwanda Rated World's Fastest Reformer in the World Bank's Doing Business 2014 Report." Rwanda High Commission United Kingdom Trade and Investment. Rwanda High Commission UK, n.d. Web. 30 Esther Duflo. "Women Empowerment and Economic Development." Journal of Economic Literature 50.4 (2012): 1051-­‐079. Print. 1054. © May 2014 Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security


INFORMATION2ACTION A publication of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security There is the peace dividend to consider as well. Women’s economic participation not only has the potential to spur long-term growth and drive social progress but can help mitigate current and future conflicts. “Peace cannot take root without tangible evidence on the ground that jobs and businesses are able to flourish,” wrote Mary Robinson recently, in describing the year-old framework agreement to finally bring an end to the violence in Congo.31 The UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region points to the “growing awareness that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integral issues for peace, security, governance and sustainable development in the region.”32 In that regard, Rwanda’s women could be providing a lesson for every country threatened by, in the midst of, or recovering from conflict. Karen Sherman is a Senior Associate on Women’s Economic Empowerment at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. The findings and analysis here is based on primary research, including in-country interviews, and secondary research.

31 Mary Robinson. "Finally, a Lasting Peace Is within Grasp for the Peoples of Eastern Congo." The East African 1-­‐7 Mar. 2014: 21. Print. 32

Ibid, 21.

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