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Gender and intergenerational challenges to Women’s economic empowerment initiatives in Rwanda

Pascal Niyonkuru and Hazel Barrett

World Development Perspectives, 2021, vol. 23, issue C

Abstract: Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) based approaches to social justice have attracted increasing attention among scholars and development-based organisations as a means of improving women’s access to economic resources and increasing women’s empowerment. A growing literature discusses the degree to which women’s economic empowerment initiatives have been successful. Most of these studies have tended to rely on the use of economic proxies that capture the level of income earned by women. Based on qualitative information collected in five rural districts of Rwanda between July 2016 and January 2017, this paper explores how existing gender relations at the household level in rural Rwanda stimulate, promote/impede robust participation in WEE initiatives and explores the strategies used by rural women involved in WEE to challenge power relations at the household level. The research used a social justice and transformative approach, employing an interpretivist methodology and qualitative methods. Overall 126 women and 48 men participated in the research. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the information collected and three main themes were identified: cultural norms, expectations and women’s participation; women’s voice and agency from their engagement in economic activities; and the different generations of women who use different coping mechanisms and strategies to deal with adverse gender power relations. The research shows that if WEE initiatives are to reach their full potential, they must address cultural and structural norms that underpin gender inequality at the household and community levels. Thus WEE initiatives, as well as providing economic opportunities for women (and also men) must also address social justice issues that are harmful and affect women’s participation in such initiatives and should support a transformative environment with respect to gender power relationships in rural households and communities.

Keywords: Rwanda; Women’s economic empowerment (WEE); Gender roles; Power relations; Rural households; Social justice (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.wdp.2021.100340

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