Gender Equality Policies in Rwanda: Public Relations or Real Transformations?


  • Petra Debusscher,

  • An Ansoms

  • The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments received from the anonymous reviewers, as well as the respondents who participated in the interviews. They also thank the Research Foundation — Flanders (FWO) for the international travel grant which made this research possible.


This article examines Rwanda's gender equality policies with the intention of contributing to the ongoing debate in the literature on the meaning of gender equality initiatives in authoritarian states. The article evaluates the transformative potential of Rwanda's gender equality policies with reference to deep-rooted societal norms and practices within which gender inequalities are embedded. To this end, the article draws on in-depth interviews conducted in Rwanda with a range of stakeholders, as well as on documentary research. It explores the factors informing the Rwandan commitment to gender equality, and the positive developments this has brought about, before identifying five trends that threaten the transformative potential of Rwandan gender equality policies. The authors conclude that while a strong political will and target-driven policies offer opportunities for promoting gender equality, the transformative potential is jeopardized by the dominance of an underlying economic rationale; the neglect of the ‘invisible labour’ of women; the formalistic implementation of gender policies and their focus on quantitative results; the limited scope for civil society voices to influence policy; and the lack of grassroots participation.