Women's Land Rights in the Context of the Land Tenure Reform in Rwanda – the Experiences of Policy Implementers


Bayisenge, Jeannette, Staffan Höjer, and Margareta Espling. 2015. “Women’s Land Rights in the Context of the Land Tenure Reform in Rwanda – the Experiences of Policy Implementers.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (1): 74–90. doi:10.1080/17531055.2014.985496.

Authors: Jeannette Bayisenge, Staffan Höjer, Margareta Espling


Over the last decade, many international organisations such as the World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID) and United States Agency for International Development have expanded their programmes on land tenure reforms in developing countries. Throughout this process, women's exclusion from land ownership has been increasingly questioned and legal reforms have been suggested as one solution. The aim of this paper is to explore and analyse the experiences of implementers of land registration and titling vis-a-vis women's land rights in the Northern Province of Rwanda. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with administrative staff at different levels involved in the programme. From the implementers' experiences, the findings show that the land certificate does not necessarily guarantee women decision-making over land, but also that women show increased awareness of land issues, which has led to land conflicts involving women. Secondly, the challenges encountered, such as polygamy, inheritance and ingaragazi issues, as well as men's unwillingness to register their marriages, are related to men's customary rights to land and to deeply embedded socio-cultural norms. The implementers' experiences and the encountered challenges during the reform process are framed by the values of a patriarchal society in which the supremacy of men over women is still strong. This leads to a ‘theory/practice dilemma’ where laws and policies that look good on paper are not necessarily easily implemented and where the intentions of laws are not necessarily logic to the local-level implementers.

Keywords: Rwanda, land tenure reform, land rights, women, policy implementation, land registration

Topics: Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Land Tenure, Rights, Land Rights Regions: Africa, Central Africa, East Africa Countries: Rwanda

Year: 2015

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