The Gendered Nature of Land and Property Rights in Post-Reform Rwanda
Policy Research Brief
This study seeks, through rigorous field research, to inform the further development of policies in Rwanda that can create a gender equitable society, and ensure women and men have adequate control over the land they need to be secure, to flourish and to reach their full human potential.
Rwanda has provided a picture of promising change for improving gender equalities in land rights. After the genocide, many households were headed by women and orphaned children, and the urgent need to protect their rights to remain on and manage the land of their husbands or fathers prompted the development of the Law no. 22/99 of 12/11/1999, the Law of Matrimonial Regimes, Liberalities and Successions, commonly referred to as the 1999 Succession Law.
Knowledge of this law and others is widespread, due to the substantial investments by the Rwandan Government, civil society organizations and international partners in awareness raising. Importantly, these land-related legal interventions and their implementation have also been transforming not only the knowledge, but also the actions and beliefs of both men and women.
The 1999 Succession Law, among others in Rwanda’s progressive legal framework, has had a broad impact. Because of the law and because of extensive sensitization on gender equality, more and more women are receiving inheritance and are more often receiving it in equal shares. Daughters are increasingly laying claim to umunani, which was almost unheard of before the genocide. Formally married women living under community of property marital regimes are now joint owners of property and have greater decision-making power over it, which according to participants has decreased distress sales and mismanagement of household land resources.
There are many positive changes brought by this legal reform, good governance, and the land tenure regularization process. However, women in Rwanda still experience some challenges in accessing land to farm, and in controlling the land that they do have access to.