Adolescent Girls Economic Opportunities Study in Rwanda

Published: January 2013

This study aims to understand the economic barriers and constraints facing adolescent girls in Rwanda, as well as the opportunities for building assets, increasing empowerment, and tackling discriminatory institutions so that girls can better access and benefit from viable opportunities.

It delivers a situational analysis with recommendations that inform the design of programmes for creating economic empowerment for adolescent girls.

Key Findings

  • Understanding money and its management is recognised as a route to self-sufficiency for girls and their households, and is particularly important for reducing dependency on men.
  • While other research has suggested that there is stigma around girls having money, our research suggests that this is not widespread.
  • There is very little innovation in the (private) sector, few programmes that cater specifically for adolescent girls, and few programmes that are scalable. There are also very few programmes that take a truly gendered approach to supporting female economic empowerment.
  • In Rwandan culture, while boys have value, girls have to work hard to get value.
  • Girls are socialised to be compliant caregivers, and to sacrifice their aspirations for the good of others.
  • The unequal value systems that boys and girls are socialised into from an early age affect girls' present and future economic activities.
  • Despite girls and women shouldering the main burden of domestic tasks, including cultivation, they are seen as "weak" and in need of protection.
  • Despite the recognition by girls that new economic opportunities are opening up, they still feel that societal norms and values pertaining to girls are harsh and rigid.
  • The message that boys' life is in their own hands (boys have agency) and girls' life is in the hands of others (not only do they not have agency, but they have little voice or influence either) was an oft repeated theme in discussions about dreams and future plans.
  • The longer both boys and girls stay in school the greater their sense of self-efficacy, and the better they are able to plan for the future, including formulating alternative plans.
  • Compliance to social norms featured strongly for girls when they were asked about building social capital; insufficient social capital also ranked highly amongst the "blockers" to achieving a good future.
  • Girls' lack of personal empowerment and self-efficacy makes them a high risk group for early sexual debut and pregnancy, maternal mortality and HIV infection.
  • Without exception, girls rank insufficient education and poverty (with the latter often a direct cause of the former) as the most critical "blockers" to achieving life aspirations.
  • Younger age cohorts (10 - 15 years) think that starting income-generating work at a young age (10 - 12 years) is preferable; whereas older age cohorts (16 - 19 years), have a preference for starting paid employment later
  • A higher proportion of those in the older age group spend money; and a higher proportion of boys than girls in all age groups spend money.
  • Most girls reported that they frequently do not have enough money to buy what they need. This inability to purchase essential items puts girls in danger.

Industries Agriculture/Food Processing, Business, Finance

Publishers Girl Hub Rwanda, Nike Foundation

Geographic Focus Africa (Central) / Rwanda

Funded by Nike Foundation, United Nations Foundation