Decision-making and joint control rights over land in Rwanda

Decision-making and joint control rights over land in Rwanda

This research, conducted in four districts of Rwanda, explores and analyses community perceptions of the obstacles to women’s participation in decision-making concerning jointly held land. It also examines the factors that prevent women from participating in community-level decision-making structures, specifically those related to land.

The study was conducted in the four areas where International Alert’s Partnership for Peaceful Rural Transformation (PPRT) operates: Ngororero and Rutsiro in the Western Province, Huye in the Southern Province and Ngoma in the Eastern Province. A mixed methods approach was employed.

Methodological triangulation was achieved through administration of three data collection instruments: a structured household survey administered to 116 women and 94 men, 10 focus group discussions (FGDs) with members of the local communities, and several key informant interviews (KIIs) conducted at both local and national level.

The study found that whereas the majority of participants believe in principle that all household and related decisions should be taken jointly by wife and husband, there is a distinct trend in both the dynamics and dimensions of such decision-making. Decisions about daily agricultural management – such as use of land, choice of crops, selection of agricultural inputs and methods – are described as being either joint decisions or taken by the female spouse. Decisions that involve a financial aspect – such as sale of crops, use of proceeds from sale of crops, and use of proceeds from sale or lease of land – are predominantly taken by the male spouse.

Several factors account for women’s diminished capacity to assert joint-ownership rights. These factors include:

  • the social construction of femininity, which is rooted in ideas of silence and submissiveness
  • a policy focus on gender equality when rural lives are experienced in the context of gender complementarity
  • the relationship between the cultural belief that a “wife comes empty-handed” to her husband’s household and her consequent lack of household bargaining power
  • women’s lack of confidence in their capability to participate in significant land-related decisions

Furthermore, the law itself reinforces the notion of heightened male authority in Article 206 of the Rwandan Civil Code.