Celebrate Solutions: Securing Women’s Land Rights in Rwanda

By: Brittany Tatum, Women Deliver

It was not until 1999 that women gained the right to own land in Rwanda. As a country with one of the highest population densities in Africa, Rwandan land is a valuable commodity. Even though women now have the right to own land, almost 80 percent of women in rural areas of Rwanda do not know their property rights. For those who do, customary laws can still undermine their right to inherit land. These disparities have not gone unnoticed. There are some notable organizations in Rwanda helping women learn about and enforce their land rights.

The Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD) is a local NGO whose goal is to ensure equitable access to land resources for sustainable peace, social justice, and economic stability. With the aid of mediation groups, they are ensuring that women know their rights and know how to assert them when need be. Rwanda has over 30,000 mediators, known as Abunzi, who play a key role in resolving land-related disputes. With the aid of the Abunzi, Rwanda has seen a drastic decrease in land-related disputes over the past ten years. 

When it comes to land disputes between married couples, mediation groups can play a huge role. Take the case of Faustin and Didacienne, a couple considering divorce in Gikomero, Rwanda. During their fallout, Faustin attempted to force his wife off of land that they legally shared title to. RISD’s mediation committee intervened. They informed the couple of the laws and Didacienne's right to the land. Like several other couples helped by the mediation groups, Faustin and Didacienne resolved their conflict and now take pride in cultivating their crops together.

Photo via: OxFam

“Women are motivated today because they are not threatened.” said Director of RSID, Annie Kairaba, in an interview with Take Part. “Rwanda is now ahead of other countries. This is because women have been empowered.”

Securing women’s land rights is critical not just for their own empowerment, but for the empowerment of entire communities. When women have resources like land, they are more likely to use those resources to benefit their children and help their families climb out of poverty. Studies have also shown that malnutrition can be cut in half when women have the opportunity own land. It is clear to see that there is a ripple effect when women’s land rights are observed, and with the help of organizations like RISD, women learn to advocate for themselves and thrive in their communities.

To learn more about the Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development visit their website, here

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