Nkinzingabo Pottien Testimony
Mr. Nkinzingabo Pottien has lived in Nyagugenge sector for the past six years. He now lives with his wife and their child in Agatare cell, a very densely populated areas and one of the larger informal settlements. When he first moved into the community, there was a lot of difficulty to get around, since there were two schools, a hospital, and a busy market. However, there was no talk about constructing a new street just yet.
When Mr. Nkinzingabo first heard the news about the upgrading project, he was ecstatic. However, he also had his concerns. Not far from where the new construction would take place, people were having negative experiences with a newly finished street –traffic accidents frequently occurred on the new Rwampara street. To prevent the same thing from happening, Agatare cell members wanted the street to be somewhat narrow, so cars will have to pass with a relatively slow speed.
During construction, The Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD) facilitated meetings and made sure that Agatare community members’ opinions were elevated and heard. RISD, along with CoK, understood how important community input was, and took suggestions very seriously. During cell meetings, RISD was able to inform community members about status of the upgrading project, and was able to brief them on their land and housing rights. Smaller meetings with soon-to-be expropriated residents ensued after these general meetings. In these smaller meetings, RISD distributed information on expropriation processes and helped address concerns about fair compensation. With RISD’s presence and efforts, Agatare cell members felt empowered to voice their valuable opinions and concerns.
As a result, Agatare members successfully lobbied for a 6-meter-wide cobblestone road, instead of the 11-meter-wide one, to avoid traffic accidents and large amount of expropriation. Meetings and negotiation ensued, eventually leading to fairly high compensation rates for the expropriated households, long period of time for move-outs, and small number of expropriation in general.
As a COPED employee specializing in waste management, Mr. Nkinzingabo was also very grateful because the new street made his job much easier. With the new street, he is able to collect waste efficiently directly from doorsteps, making pick-up an easy process. According to Mr. Nkinzingabo, not only is Agatare easier to get around, it is also much more sanitary and beautiful.
Ms. Umutoni Mwajab’s Testimony
Agatare is one of four cells in the Nyarugenge Sector of Kigali. As one of the most densely populated unplanned areas in the country, Agatare is in need of improvements to basic infrastructure, electricity, and transportation systems. Prior to the completion of the “Agatare Pilot Project”, poor street conditions made transportation from the Kiyovu cell to the market in Biryogo cell nearly impossible, compromising business and safety. Additionally, insufficient sewage systems provided a dirty and unhygienic environment along paths.
“The Agatare Pilot Project” was proposed by the Rwanda Housing Agency as a first step towards improving living conditions for residents of Agatare Cell. The project planned to upgrade a street in a small section of the Agatare Cell. Beyond providing significant improvements to infrastructure, construction of the new street would additionally provide employment opportunities for community members.
The new street provided the community with a variety of benefits including: Improvements in transportation, commerce, health, and safety. Residents can now travel easily and safely from Kiyovu to Biryongo market. Significant improvements to hygiene and cleanliness along the road have been made. Moreover, the street has been built with regard to the needs and concerns of Agatare residents, ensuring that expropriations and traffic accidents in the residential neighborhood were minimized. “The Agatare Pilot Project” serves as a model for the rest of the sector, in which the city plans to implement similar upgrading projects.
Ms. Umutoni Mwajab was born and raised in Agatare Cell. For almost as long as she can remember, the only way to travel from her home to the main road or the market was along a rain-weathered, dirt path. The walkways were in such terrible condition that they could not be safely navigated at night. Ms. Umutoni explained that local leaders even had to evacuate an elderly disabled woman from her home for fear that she would not be able to access a hospital during a medical emergency.
Thus, the community of Agatare welcomed the new street proposed by the City of Kigali. However, their excitement was accompanied by a fear that many residents would be expropriated in order to make room for the new street. Ms. Umutoni Mwajab also explained that the community was concerned that a wide street would invite traffic accidents. The residents had received limited communication from the development authorities or Project management unit on the planned blueprint for the new street, so all details of the project were initially miscommunicated. Ms. Umutoni Mwajab was one of many residents who were misinformed that their homes would be subjected to expropriation. Without a clear public information sharing strategy with the government, she and her neighbors did not know how to confirm these rumors.
Luckily, The Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development introduced a series of awareness campaigns to engage the Agatare community in the development process. RISD held community meetings to inform residents about the status of the project, their land and housing rights, expropriation processes and procedures, including rights on fair compensation. These meetings also served as forum for the women and men of Agatare to express concerns about the upgrading project, thereby encouraging community participation in the decision making process.
RISD’s participation was of critical importance to community members like Ms. Umutoni Mwajab. RISD monitoring and engagement helped ensure that the Agatare Pilot Project reflected the needs of the community and protected their housing and land rights. For example, RISD took the residents’ concerns regarding the size of the road into consideration and successfully negotiated on behalf of the Agatare community to reduce the width of the road from 11ft to 6ft. As a result, Ms. Umutoni and countless other neighbors were not expropriated from their lifelong homes and were able to enjoy access to a new, safe street. While Ms. Umutoni Mwajab’s home would not be affected by the Pilot Program, she was initially concerned that her neighbors being displaced would not be fairly compensated. However, she explained, RISD also helped negotiate better compensation for those being expropriated. Finally, RISD helped negotiate longer periods for moving, to ensure that those expropriated had sufficient time to prepare to relocate. RISD’s sustained engagement and commitment to community participation gave Ms. Umutoni Mwajab and her neighbors confidence that the project would best serve the men and women of Agatare.
Authors: Sonia & Nina – Duke University Interns
Ambiguous goals often characterize community-based change initiatives, thus planning for specific strategies towards achieving those goals are, more often than not, quite challenging. Hence, in planning, designing, implementing, and devising good exit strategies for sustainability, programs need to be grounded on good theory. On the ground, reality is full of dynamics that every now and then may shape and re-shape specific activities to achieve the program goal and desired impact(s).
A good theory allows program managers to logically visualize sequences and address on-the-ground strategic monitoring & evaluation, documentation of learnings and act on those dynamics while at the same time not losing sight of resource constraints, including the idea of completing within given time frame. All these have compelling synergistic and holistic cause-and-effect or logical thought processes, which is also encapsulated in logical framework approach:
Goal–> Inputs —> Activities —> Outputs —> Outcomes —> Impact
Blogger: Canoy, JJRC
Social and economic inclusion of women is a result of securing their land rights. There is a positive correlation between securing women’s land rights and their empowerment; however this shall not be full range social and economic empowerment because of intervening complex barriers in the society that are built on highly patriarchal structure. The synergies of these barriers need to be addressed to achieve inclusive development.
To address the intervening synergies that complex barriers impose against achieving the full fruition of women’s secure land rights (i.e., gender equality and women empowerment), to anchor activities that will aim at building the capacities of women and men on issues relevant to their needs, viz:
- For women’s financial inclusion, to strengthen the capacity of women and build their confidence on areas such as small business setup and management, business proposal development, understanding the loan and credit requirements of financial institutions;
- To strengthen and intensify communication and information campaigns geared towards strengthening the knowledge base of women and men on issues such as land rights, relevant land and family laws, and gender equality;
- To exhaust already existing mechanisms, but have remained untapped, in communication and information campaigns on issues of relevance;
- More inputs (e.g., trainings) to maximize the land’s productive value and equip them to respond to pressures of arable land (such as proper land use and productivity to be able to combat or adapt to climate change); and
- To lobby concerned bodies to support women’s productivity in agriculture, or commit necessary investment to support women in agriculture.
AFI (2014). “Rwanda’s Financial Inclusion Success Story: Umurenge SACCOs (Case Study)”, Alliance for Financial Inclusion, July.
FAO-UN (2011). “Closing the Gender Gap in Agriculture”.
FDIC (2014). “What is Economic Inclusion”, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
FinScope (2016). “Financial Inclusion in Rwanda”.
Garvelink, William J. (2012). “Land Tenure, Property Rights, and Rural Economic Development in Africa”, Center for Strategic and Development Studies, February 17.
Kairaba, Annie (2010). “A Study on Women’s Land Rights in Africa: Rwanda Case Study”, A research paper prepared for the African Women Rights’ Observatory (AWRO) as a joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme, Regional Gender Programme for Africa (UNDP/RGPA) and the African Centre for Gender and Social Development of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA/ACGS), October.
Kimani, Mary (2012). “Women Struggle to Secure Land Rights: Hard Fight for Access and Decision-making Power”, in Africa Renewal, Special Edition on Women 2012.
Landesa (2012). “Land Rights and Food Security: The Linkages Between Secure Land Rights, Women and Improved Household Food Security and Nutrition”.
Malhotra, Anju, Sidney Ruth Schuler, & Carol Boender (2002). “Background Paper Prepared for the World Bank Workshop on Poverty and Gender: New Perspectives”, June 28.
Mehra, Rekha & Mary Hill Rojas (2008). “Women, Food Security and Agriculture in a Global Marketplace” in Significant Shift, International Center for Research on Women,
Nancy, L., et al. (2015). “Gender, Assets, and Agricultural Development: Lessons from Eight Projects”, IFPRI Discussion Paper.
Odeny, M. (2013). “Improving Access to Land and Strengthening Women’s Land Rights in Africa”, a paper presented on the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, Washington DC, April 8-11.
OECD, 2016. “Women in Africa”.
Quisumbing, A. & Pandolfelli, L. (2010). Promising Approaches to Address the Needs of Poor Female Farmers: Resources, Constraints, and Interventions, in World Development, Vol. 38 (4).
RISD (2014). “Sustainable Land Reform. Securing Land Rights: Mediation from the Ground”, Kairaba, Annie & Samuel Shearer (eds). (Kigali: Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development).
Rosen, Stacey & Shala Shapouri (2012). “Factors Affecting Food Production Growth in Sub-Sharan Africa”, United States Development Agency, September 20.
UN (2001). “Important Concepts Underlying Gender Mainstreaming”. (August).
World Bank (2013). “Social Inclusion: Brief”, August 15.
Blogger: Canoy, JJR
1.1 Women and Women’s Land Rights in Rwanda
Rwanda is a country that is predominantly rural, i.e., a great majority of its population live in the rural areas and are fully dependent on subsistence agriculture and other natural resources for livelihood. Women represent a great majority of its workforce; women are considered caretakers of households and they, too, are the main cultivators of land. Women and gender equality, however, are at the heart of Rwanda’s developmental goals; in fact gender is enshrined in Rwanda’s 2003 Constitution, which promotes gender equality at all levels of the society.
In 2010, the Government of Rwanda implemented a nationwide comprehensive land reform program through the Land Tenure Regularization Program (LTRP) thus giving women equal land rights with men. Achieving this point is not without struggle against the pervasive disenfranchisement of women. It came with a long history of women’s marginalization that is classic of patriarchal Africa.
1.2 The Social and Economic Inclusion of Women through Securing Women’s Land Rights
Securing women’s land rights is key to women’s empowerment. The land reform process that that has taken place in Rwanda provided a mechanism to break the pervasive disenfranchisement of women on access to, control over and use of land. It has enabled positive transformations in women’s lives, both social and economic. Nonetheless, for LTRP’s fruition to be fully realized, the synergies of certain complex barriers will need to be broken; because these barriers will undermine gender inclusive development.
1.2.1 Women’s transformation as partners of men
The benefits from LTRP can be glimpsed pre-LTRP vis-a-vis post-LTRP on women’s perception of their own experiential transformations.
- First and foremost, women considered land as core to their empowerment. It is central to their everyday life: They derived livelihoods from land; and land provided a sense of food security for the household. But, women were voiceless; they were not allowed to participate in household decision-making, much less on land matters. And women were in every perceivable situation of oppression. They simply received orders from men and accepted whatever fate there was installed for them; men were the only voice in the household. There were instances where women would realize that their husbands had leased their land or sold their harvests, but they could not complain. And women were expected not to complain else they would face their husbands’ fury.
- Second, the detachment of women’s self-worth: Without land rights, women perceived themselves as just men’s property. Women felt equated to land that can be accessed, controlled and used anytime at the discretion of their husbands.
- Third , as men had sole discretion and decision-making power on land matters, men as a result were able to conceal from their wives their other land properties. Men accessed, controlled and used their other properties for reasons that were not advantageous to the immediate family.
Juxtaposed with the above backdrop to bring out the perceived gains from LTRP, the women claimed to experience transformations in their private domain. They claimed a sense of empowerment, with which without LTRP they would not have experienced at all:
- First, women’s inclusion in household decision-making processes: Anchored on LTRP having given women equal land rights with men and secure land rights, women felt being included in household decision-making. Knowing that their names were written in land registration and land titles, women started to influence men in decision-making especially on land matters. Decision-making has become consultative and participatory: men started consulting women and gathered their consent prior to making decisions on land matters.
- Second, as economic actors, women felt empowered through their financial inclusion in formal financial institutions. A land title equipped them with a legal document to use as collateral to apply for credits and loans . Women also perceived being financially shockproof in case divorce will have become inevitable. With an equal share of land property, women thought of themselves as resilient to future shocks, being able to start a new life and to take care of their children. Men, on the other hand, were perceived to start valuing land as a family affair, and shun the idea of divorce since they know that, in divorce, they will lose part of their property
- Third, disclosures: With the implementation of LTRP, disclosing land properties have become mandatory, such that men were forced to reveal all their land properties and, as mandated by law, to equally share them with women.
For women, LTRP has brought a paramount sense of transformation whereby being aware of the legitimacy of their land rights, women started perceiving themselves as men’s equal partner in household decision-making. This sense of empowerment emancipated women from being seen as, like land property of men, subject to men’s discretion in access, control and use.
1.2.2 Women’s financial inclusion through securing women’s land rights
Securing women’s land rights is key to women’s empowerment. In the realm of economic inclusion, Kairaba (2010) similarly pointed out in her seminal paper in that women’s land rights directly impact women’s ability to access finance. In Rwanda, two seemingly parallel events are evident to account for the financial inclusion of the communities, in general, and of women, in particular:
- One, which is a nationwide drive, is the establishment of community SACCOs beginning 2010 whereby 90% of Rwandans now live within a 5-km radius of a SACCO (AFI, 2014).
- Two, the LTRP, which secures women’s land rights. To obtain a loan from formal financial institutions such as community SACCOs, one needs proof that one can pay back the loan in case of default. In which case, a land title is a collateral that has particularly empowered women to access loans and credits in such institutions.
A cross-sectional view to allow gender comparison of participation in formal financial institutions, however, offers overt disparity in loan participation between women and men. For the period 2011 to 2016, men dominated the credit applications accounting for 57% to 71% of loan approvals, while women 29%-42% only (FinScope, 2016). However, despite this seemingly skewed gender participation in loans, there has been an observed increasing trend in participation among women over the years. At national level, financial exclusion of women decreased from 32% to 13% between 2012 to 2016 (FinScope, 2016). This observation, again, brings one to capture the gains from LTRP on women’s financial inclusion.
The following are overt reasons for the observed gender disparity:
- Prevailing societal norms and hierarchies: For instance, (i) men have always been regarded as heads of the household and, as such, they are seen responsible for household financial and banking transactions. Opening of accounts was perceived not to interest women thinking that the husband’s account is already for the family; (ii) women still fear their husband’s wrath if and when they propose for loan applications, and (iii) “misrepresentation” in instances where women applicants are granted bigger loans, register their names in the applications, but men finally collect the money; and
- Women’s lack of knowledge and ignorance on credit application requirements and their lack of awareness that women-support programs are available for them.
Blogger: Canoy, JJRC
This article lends support to RISD’s overarching assertion that securing women’s land rights in Rwanda is the first vital step towards the empowerment of women at the grassroots; however, it is not panacea. As debates on women’s land rights in Africa revolve around understanding the barriers that prevent women’s access to, control over and use of land (e.g., UN, 2013; Odeny, 2013), this article infers that, for fruition of LTRP to be fully realized, it is necessary to break the synergies of these intervening complex barriers.
Inferences were drawn from the data gathered using rapid appraisal techniques (women-focused group discussions and key informant interviews) which RISD conducted in the districts of Gazabo, Kamonyi and Musanze in September 2015.
Barriers to women with secure land rights
The barriers relate to two distinct factors: (i) women’s knowledge base, and (ii) prevailing societal norms and hierarchies which the UN (2013) was apt to describe as discriminatory cultural attitudes and practices that built on highly patriarchal structures.
Knowledge base. This includes perceptions on matters that respondents considered vital, viz.
- The lack or little knowledge and information on land laws, land policies, and gender equality concepts. In community land dispute resolutions for instance where women expressed being treated equally with men by Abunzis or community mediators, the women yearned for more knowledge and information on land laws and policies for their own update and upkeep. Currently, their sources of information are their community (village local leaders, land sector officer, Abunzis), social networks (neighbours and friends, church), RISD, and, to a limited extent, radio. While commending these sources, the respondents however expressed the need for more updates and to exhaust venues for information-sharing like the parents’ evening meetings called “umuguroba w’Ababyeyi”.
- The lack of awareness on governmental support programs that encourage the financial inclusion of women in formal financial streams. These programs would have helped women cope with loan application forms and requirements, which they felt too technical to understand, and thus their reluctance to apply or to drop out after a first attempt. In a case like this, women were said to finally leave processing of applications to their husbands or male members of the household.
Prevailing societal norms and hierarchies, which effectually dictate the power relations between women and men. These barriers manifested as follows:
- Women’s lower participation rate in loan applications vis-à-vis men’s higher participation rate, which was said as accounted for by the following: (i) men have always been regarded as heads of the household and, as such, they are seen responsible for household financial and banking transactions. Women persistently view that the husband’s bank account is that of the family’s hence women refuse to open their own accounts; (ii) women persistently fear their husband’s wrath if and when they would propose for a loan application, and (iii) “misrepresentation” of women applicants on men in cases where women applicants are granted bigger loans: women register their names as applicant, but men come to collect the money.
- Conflicting yet competing power relations between women and men that result from (i) prevailing mindset among men who still think they control women. Women, on the other hand, are complacent to such mentality; (ii) men’s lack of respect on women’s land rights; (iii) men, being more aware of land rights, take advantage of women’s ignorance; (iv) women’s difficulty of understanding the concept of “gender equality” and thought of it as a means to control their husbands. Mindset like this eventually emerges as sources of dispute.
Odeny, M. (2013). “Improving Access to Land and Strengthening Women’s Land Rights in Africa”, a paper presented on the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, Washington DC, April 8-11.
UN (2013). “Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources”.
Blogger: Canoy, JJR
Gender equality and women empowerment are inter-connected developmental terms, seemingly cross-cutting that it is almost difficult to approach one without thinking of the other. As empowerment can be social, economic and political, defining the term has taken many shapes and forms, but there is no one definitive model of empowerment. Malhotra, et al. (2002) in preparing a background paper for the World Bank, offers that in the context of the bank’s poverty alleviation operations, empowerment in its broadest sense is “the expansion of freedom of choice and action. It means increasing one’s authority and control over the resources and decisions that affect one’s life.” Equality, on the other hand, carries aspects that are both quantitative and qualitative. Its qualitative aspect is aptly described by the UN (2001) to involve “ensuring that the perceptions, interests, needs and priorities of women and men will be given equal weight in planning and decision-making.”
A contextual understanding of these two concepts have been pervasive because the disenfranchisement or marginalization of women is a concern that states and developmental actors, including civil society organizations, are keen to address to achieve inclusive development. These are pervasive developmental concepts that weave the fabric of women’s social and economic inclusion. The World Bank (2013) categorically speaks of social inclusion as “central to ending extreme poverty and fostering shared prosperity”, and “is both an outcome and a process of improving the terms on which people take part in society.” Economic inclusion, on the other hand, is broadly defined by FDIC (2014) as a “term used to describe a variety of public and private efforts aimed at bringing underserved consumers into the financial mainstream”.
1.0 The Marginalization of Women in Africa
Majority of women in Africa depend on land for their livelihoods. Women constitute the majority of smallholder farmers, providing most of the labour and managing a large part of the farming activities on a daily basis (OECD, 2016; RISD, 2014), but women have limited or no rights over control of land. Figures on women’s participation in food production are also alarming, although figures remain contested for lack of comprehensive statistics— the numbers often mentioned range between 60% to 80% of food production being accounted for by women (OECD, 2016; Rosen & Shapouri, 2012; Kimani, 2012; Mehra & Rojas, 2008), and women own only 1% of land (Garvelink, 2012).
Experience in African countries with legal framework on women’s land rights point to a common agreement that the desired outcomes of women’s land rights are not fully achieved yet. Women have been pervasively denied secure access to land. Odeny (2013) keenly observed that women will need deliberate land administration policies and processes that ensure a gender-equitable land tenure system that will enable women to take part in both family and community land related decision-making processes. More recently, debates on women’s land rights in Africa revolve around understanding the barriers that prevent women’s access to, control over and use of land. The identified barriers include:
- Inadequate legal standards and/or ineffective implementation of standards and policies at national and local levels (UN, 2013). Gaps in implementation and enforcement of gender-sensitive land policies marginalized women, especially that most women remain unaware of the existing legal frameworks;
- Low levels of education of rural women. Where efforts have been made to design legal frameworks concurrent with gender equality in land rights, the low level of education of rural women posits another barrier. With low education, women are not able to understand the highly technical legal terms used in land-related legal frameworks (Odeny, 2013); and
- Discriminatory cultural attitudes and practices that are built on highly patriarchal structures (UN, 2013).
There is general consensus in literatures that improving women’s access and control of land is vital for achieving food security and economic development. Preventing women’s rights on land would exacerbate their poverty and deepen gender inequality. For instance, studies conducted in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., Nancy et al., 2015; Quisumbing, et al., 2010) stressed the need to consider gender dynamics related to individual and household assets when designing, implementing, and evaluating agricultural development projects and programs. This is because the use, control, and ownership of assets affect who within the household can participate in agricultural development projects, and how household members benefit from participation. In both ways, secure rights to land for women help moderate the impact of food price volatility and other shocks on poor households (Landesa, 2012). When women have control over land, agricultural production increases thus improving food security and benefitting communities as a whole (FAO, 2011). In developing countries, FAO observed that this would invariably increase women’s production by 20% to 30%, which would effectually reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 % (i.e., about 100 to 150 million people).
Securing women’s land rights will also create greater incentive to make productivity-enhancing investments because women will have greater confidence that they can recoup their investments over the medium and long term (Landesa, 2012; Garvelink, 2012). For smallholders, it also means collateral for agricultural inputs, improvements, innovations, and expansion of their enterprises and improved opportunities for families to access financial services, and sometimes are prerequisites to access government programs and assistance (Garvelink, 2012).
Evidence from African studies shows that the existing gender inequality in access to and control over land and natural resources is an obstacle to the sustainable management of natural resources and socio-economic development. Land is one of the cornerstones of economic development on which farmers, pastoralists and other communities base their livelihoods. Therefore, efforts need to be made by policymakers to enhance equal rights over access and control of land by both women and men because, being able to access, control, and own productive assets such as land, labour, finance, and social capital enable women to potentially participate in productive life. Such land-related policies concurrent with women empowerment would have a direct impact on the family livelihood.
Blogger: Canoy, JJR