Human Security and Reconstruction Efforts in Rwanda: Impact on the Lives of Women


Gervais, Myriam. 2004. “Human Security and Reconstruction Efforts in Rwanda: Impact on the Lives of Women.” Development in Practice 13 (5): 542-550.

Author: Myriam Gervais


This paper evaluates the pertinence of interventions sponsored by aid agencies that seek to meet the security needs of women in post-reconstruction Rwanda. Personal security, economic security, and socio-political security are used as the main methodological reference marks and indicators. The information and data used in the paper were gathered during several visits to Rwanda in 2001 and 2002. The study reveals that efforts have brought about positive impacts on the lives of women. However, findings also show that specific strategies aimed at increasing women's security would better benefit them if they were more consistently planned so as to take into consideration the ways in which issues of poverty, gender, and security intersect.

Keywords: women's land rights, women, economic security, socio-political security, reconstruction


  • The author examines a sample of initiatives and evaluates how pertinent the interventions sponsored by aid agencies that seek to meet the security needs of women have been. A look at the projects undertaken in Rwanda during the reconstruction period reveals that there were two types of initiatives aimed at supporting women's efforts to respond to the crisis caused by conflict and genocide: the formation of solidarity groups and production associations, and the establishment of advocacy groups and women's collectives. These associations have also taken on the task of providing legal and medical assistance services, forming groups to assist survivors, and providing business advice. The document describes how with the collaboration of local people, some non governmental organisations (NGOs) built houses in various parts of the country and tended to the most needy. By giving priority to the most vulnerable and by making this a condition for funding, NGO projects promoted the taking into account of women's needs in housing programmes. In many cases, women signed individual contracts recognised by communal authorities. The signing of a contract between a woman, the local authority, and the NGO brought about a major change: women and girls were recognised as owners of their homes. The document then considers other issues such as economic security and socio-political security.


“Promoting human security in post-conflict societies means taking specific actions that support a safe environment, social harmony, equal status, and equitable access to resources and to the decision-making process.” (542)

“Gender-based violence still remains high during reconstruction periods, proving that peace is not enough to ensure women’s security. In many cases, women are also confronted with radically changed realities: they have to assume new roles and new responsibilities at the family and community levels, and in so doing they are more susceptible to new forms of insecurity.” (543)

“Rwanda’s agriculture-based economy was completely destroyed by the war, forcing most of its population to live in a state of extreme precariousness. The food shortages caused by the destruction of crops and the severe reduction in cultivated land was aggravated by the inability of many households to obtain the labour they needed. In 1996, 34 per cent of families—with an average of six to seven young dependants— were headed by widows, unmarried women, and wives of prisoners suspected of genocide…64 per cent  of labour force in basic production is female.” (544)

“It is conventionally considered unacceptable for women to inherit from their families. Since girls who are heads of family enjoy no protection, they live in a climate of permanent insecurity and are vulnerable to attempts at intimidation and sexual assault, particularly at night.”(545)

“Following the genocide, one of the challenges for female heads of household was to secure a cultivable plot of land in order to ensure their family’s subsistence. One frequently observed way of doing this was to join an associative group.” (546)

Topics: Gender, Women, Girls, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Equity, Genocide, Households, Livelihoods, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Rights, Land Rights, Property Rights, Women's Rights, Security, Human Security Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2004

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