Strengthening Women's Access to Land into IFAD projects: The Rwanda Experience

Published: January 2011

This paper is a joint effort of IFAD and RISD to analyse and investigate women's land rights in Rwanda. It presents the outcomes of the investigation on women?s land rights and its implications in the redistribution, delimitation and registration process carried out in the Nyagatare, Gatsibo, Kayonza and Kirehe Districts in the Eastern Province. For the assessment, meetings were held in the four Districts, with IFAD project staff, beneficiaries, Cell and District Executive Secretaries, Districts Mayors, members of various men and women cooperatives, District Land Officers, members of Cell and District Land Committees.

Key Findings

  • Intensifying programmes geared towards raising the community awareness of their land rights will help protect women's position in the community as regards land issues. Such awareness will help break discriminatory cultural traditions against women such as "women have no right to inherit land and can neither make decisions regarding family land".
  • Training of local institutions has a positive multiplier effect for the community and for women in particular. Since the local leaders are in the position to handle over 80 percent of the land related disputes if they have the right skills and knowledge they are also in position to passively or actively train their community members on different issues regarding their land rights most of which are infringed against women.
  • Awareness raising and sensitisation activities on women?s land rights and the land legislation should be always carried out before starting the registration process.
  • Both men and women should take part in the sensitization and awareness raising activities. Men should be involved in the identification of the problems that the family face and on possible solutions, linking these solutions with active involvement of women.
  • It would also be effective to have male champions who advocate for women's land rights. Males must be involved (and not simply spoken to) because, "more than anything else, men and boys will listen to other men and boys, far more than they will listen to the anger or pleas of women or to a disembodied media voice".
  • Verify that the representation of women in the bodies at District and village level is effective. There may be cases where the women are limited in number due to the literacy issue. In such respect, there should be activities linked to literacy courses.
  • Once in some contexts the customary norms are still strong, it may be considered to hold the various village meetings separately for men and women, to give the latter the opportunity to discuss their views more freely before puffing them forward in more formal meetings.
  • During the process of land registration, special attention should be paid to unregistered marriages, "illegal" wives and illegitimate children. The village bodies should verify the various situations on a ad hoc basis to avoid the exclusions of women, boys and girls from the registration.
  • All the data (and not only the ones related to social aspects and services) collected in the various steps of the registration process should be disaggregated by sex.
  • Land related activities should be integrated and supported by training linked to IGA such as livestock, access to credit, cooperative management, so that women could become economically active.
  • Awareness raising and training should be carried out at District, sector, cell and village level on women's land rights, specifically, but not exclusively to land officers, community development officers, land officers and legal officers. Focus should be on local leaders who deal with land related issues on a day-to-day basis; women?s groups; youth and community in general, learning from RISD Public and Information Awareness (PIA) Programs that are conducted through media messages and community theatres, which has proved to be effective tools.

Populations Women

Industries Agriculture/Food Processing

Publishers International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Geographic Focus Africa (Central) / Rwanda