Thursday, September 10, 2015

Policy Brief: The Impact of Gendered Legal Rights to Land on the Prevalence and Nature of Intra and Inter Household Disputes

More than sixteen years have passed since the adoption of the 1999 Succession Law, which introduced protections for gender equality in land ownership and equal rights to land inheritance. Recently, many questions have been raised regarding the actual impact of this legislation on gendered land rights. To this end, the USAID LAND Project contracted the Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD) to conduct a study measuring “The Impact of Gendered Legal Rights to Land on the Prevalence and Nature of Intra- and Inter-Household Disputes”. 

The ILPD research team used a mixed methods approach to collect data in every region of the country. The research methodology included a large-scale randomized household survey, focus group discussions, key informant interviews, and data collected directly from Primary and Intermediate Court records.

The findings highlight the inconsistencies, uncertainties and confusion that can arise from the introduction of gendered land rights in a dynamically changing social and statutory environment. This is nowhere more evident than in inter-generational inter vivos land - transfers called “umunani”, which were traditionally gifts of land given to male children, but are now also accessible to women. Other arenas of contestation relate to the rights of women in legal versus informal marriage, the land rights of widows, and legal co-ownership in the land registration process.

A nation-wide education and awareness-building campaign is needed to address overall insufficient knowledge of gendered land rights, with particular emphasis on addressing the awareness gap between men and women; the continuing traditional belief that men and boys have stronger claims to landed umunani and inheritance than women and girls; and the traditions, norms, and beliefs that prevent women from claiming landed umunani. The legal rights of widows and informally married women to land should also be revisited, strengthened, and clarified.  

Assessment and Plan for the Review of the Rwanda National Land Policy

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) LAND Project is pleased to share findings from an assessment of the 2004 National Land Policy. The assessment was conducted by a consultant to determine whether there was a need for review of the 2004 National Land Policy (NLP) and a plan for a comprehensive review of the NLP. The consultant worked closely with and was guided by Rwanda Natural Resources Authority (RNRA), Ministry of Natural Resources (MINIRENA) and USAID LAND Project.

The assessment includes insights gained from the discussions, together with the review of relevant documents and studies done on the land policy inside and outside Rwanda, which have enabled the consultant to come up with this note indicating whether the land policy should be reviewed, areas on which the review should focus and a road map to guide the review. For more details, visit

USAID Land Project will be glad to hear your feedback on the Proceedings Report. Send feedback to Innocent KARANGWA, Communications Specialist USAID LAND Project through e-mail


Friday, April 24, 2015

University of Gothenburg Publication:More needs to be done to strengthen women's right to land in Rwanda

The implementation of laws and policies to strengthen women's right to land in Rwanda often clashes with customary practices and deeply embedded socio-cultural norms and beliefs. In some instances this implementation has even led to new forms of discrimination. In order to be more effective, new laws should show greater sensitivity to customary systems and the complex reality of the existence of the local population. This is the conclusion of a thesis produced at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. 

The Land Registration and Titling (LRT) Program in Rwanda, launched as part of a broader reform programme in 2006 and expanded to cover the whole country in 2009, had as one of its aims to strengthen women's right to land. An elaboration of gender-sensitive land laws and policies has challenged some gender norms and ideologies related to male supremacy.

However, deeply rooted customary practices and socio-cultural norms make this implementation difficult; even more so, since implementers of the new laws at local level often lack knowledge of these and also lack the will to put them into practice.
“The idea of women’s subordination to men is transmitted from parent to child, and also via schools, religious institutions, media and so on. This sustains gender hierarchies,” says Jeannette Bayisenge, author of the thesis.

She has studied the implementation of the LRT Program through field work conducted in 2012 and 2013, when she interviewed 480 women from agricultural households in conjunction with twenty-three semi-structured interviews and nine focus group discussions with local level policy implementers, women and members of women’s associations.

Jeannette Bayisenge found that even though more women today are fighting for their right to land, more awareness needs raising about the new laws. And women need more support in order to have the courage to claim their rights.

“Women have a weaker bargaining position than men. In my study, women cite their lack of knowledge, inability to present their case, fear of community disapproval, fear of their husbands, fear of in-laws, lack of confidence, time constraints and financial means as being some of the main factors that can discourage them from claiming their right,” says Jeannette Bayisenge.
“Women are stuck between exercising their right to claim a piece of land and their concern not to compromise their relationships with their husbands, families, community and society as whole.”

The new laws themselves also perpetuate inequalities; for instance, they require women to be in a monogamous and registered marriage, yet one in three women in the country is not.
“Even though banned by law today, polygamous marriages still exist. Women in such marriages, as well as women who enter into non-registered marriages, are not covered by the law.”

 Jeannette Bayisenge also found that the reluctance of local implementers to enforce the new laws is another hurdle if change is to happen. Many implementers have scant knowledge about these laws, but their reluctance also stems from the fact that the implementation process takes a top-down perspective whereas local implementers try to be sensitive to the local context.

Jeannette Bayisenge recommends that new laws and policies should in future be integrated more gradually into the complex and diverse reality of the local population.
“Policymakers should continue looking at ways to adapt new policies to the local context, and to implement them cautiously and gradually rather than imposing them on people,” Jeannette Bayisenge says.

More information
Name of the thesis: Changing Gender Relations? Women’s Experiences of Land Rights in the Case of the Land Tenure Reform Program in Rwanda.
Contact: Jeannette Bayisenge, Department of Social Work,,
The thesis can be downloaded at:

Source :


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

World Bank Publication:Rwanda related presentations/papers attached from the WorldBank conference on Land and Poverty 2015.

Currently, the Annual World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty 2015: 'Linking Land Tenure and Use for Shared Prosperity' is taking place.

Please find below the articles on land in Rwanda: