Women in Rwanda make remarkable advances thanks to inclusive policies, UNCTAD study finds

22 October 2014

​Rwanda is a leading example of the successful integration of gender considerations in a country's legislation and development framework, a new UNCTAD study has found, leading to remarkable advances in the status of Rwandan women and girls.

A new UNCTAD study, Who is Benefiting from Trade Liberalization in Rwanda? A Gender Perspective, attempts to assess the impacts of Rwanda's trade policies on women and examines their role in the country's economy.

The report found that Rwanda has acknowledged the importance of gender equality and women's empowerment as tools for development and has made remarkable advances in furthering the status of women and girls - especially in education and political participation.

However, women's ability to fully benefit from the country's recent economic expansion remains impinged by factors such as gender-based cultural norms and women's limited access to economic assets and resources.

By looking at the direct effects of exports on women's employment structure as well as the effects of imports on women's consumption patterns and government spending ("revenue effect"), UNCTAD's analysis shows that men and women are not benefitting equally in the gains from trade.

The study finds that women are crowded into subsistence-oriented staple agriculture and tend to be segregated into less-dynamic, contracting sectors of the economy - by and large those that are informal and non-tradable. On the one hand this means they remain relatively insulated from the potential threats of trade, including food-price fluctuations, but on the other from its direct benefits.

The Rwanda case study underlines the need for policies that correlate more tightly the creation of jobs for women with the economic and trade performance of the country.

It points to issues that may negatively impact women if they are not taken into account, specifically:

  • the intensification of export-oriented agricultural segments, particularly export cash crops such as tea and coffee, may mainly favour commercially-oriented farmers and crowd out small and marginal farmers - who tend to be women;

  • the modernization of the domestic-oriented staple food production may hamper women's ability to integrate efficiently into upgraded supply chains if constraints on them, in terms of their capabilities and access to productive resources, are not addressed.

However, Rwandan women may well benefit from the country's trade and economic expansion, the study found. So that they might, the study explores a set of policy measures that the government of Rwanda may wish to consider in order to stimulate those sectors in which women are typically concentrated, as well as to increase women's participation in expanding and commercially-oriented sectors of the economy.