From Policy to Practice: Exercising Gender-Equal Land Rights in Rwanda.

March 11, 2016

90.8%

of male respondents supported daughters’ rights to inherit equally with sons by the end of the 10-month campaign

64%

of survey respondents across all four districts considered radio an effective means of conveying land information

284

men participated in the poetry and dance competitions, with 205 women

More Than A Woman’s Issue

To spark engaging conversations about exercising land rights among traditional decision-makers, Radio Ishingiro’s campaign targeted men and boys. By invoking “gender-equal land rights” rather than “women’s land rights,” the campaign aimed to overcome men’s fears that only women stood to benefit, and at men’s expense. This approach was inspired by field interviews in which women lamented that campaigns promoting gender equality routinely targeted only women:

“People who train us on gender and land rights only train women, and don’t train men,” a young woman explained. “We need to be trained together so that we both have a common understanding.”

Giving considerable attention to boys and men, the campaign aimed to shift their mindsets toward embracing gender equality. To ensure this targeting was effective, program staff first needed to understand boys’ and men’s attitudes about land rights and address any prejudices they held. They also needed to understand which communication vehicles were most likely to reach boys and men.

A Creative Approach to Public Awareness

To glean this information, Radio Ishingiro conducted a baseline survey across four districts in Rwanda. Respondents were asked questions like, “What rights do you believe a wife in an informal marriage should have when her husband dies?” and “Suppose a formally married couple has a son and a daughter… If the husband and the wife were to die, who would inherit the land?”

The breadth of data collected gave the campaign a vital grasp of local knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding gender-equal land rights. Armed with this qualitative and quantitative data, campaign designers got to work developing tailored messages. They also researched what channels of information Rwandan audiences favored most, and found that 66 percent of respondents across all four districts considered radio an effective means of conveying land information.

“This is improving discussions among married couples on issues pertaining to land transactions. Especially, making a decision to sell family land is now a mutual decision, contrary to the past.”

Jean Nepomoscene Hitimana

To creatively raise awareness of gender-equal land rights, Radio Ishingiro hosted radio dramas, talk shows, quiz programs, and a series of poetry and dance competitions. With 284 men and 205 women participating in the poetry and dance competitions, Radio Ishingiro succeeded in recasting gender-equal land rights as more than a woman’s issue.

“This is improving discussions among married couples on issues pertaining to land transactions,” Jean Nepomoscene Hitimana of Nyamasheke District explained at the competition launch. “Especially, making a decision to sell family land is now a mutual decision, contrary to the past.”

The competition kicked off in Gicumbi District and concluded in Gisagara, with dozens of winners selected along the way. It rallied 489 participants to champion gender-equal land rights both on the stage and behind the airwaves.

One participant from Gicumbi District, Jean Claude Ntirenganya, performed a song called “Children Are Equal.” In the third verse, he sings:

Dear husband, know the value of a wife

And makes you feel being united, and your fruits grow trying to follow

In your footsteps because like father, like son, so goes a saying.

Even when their only resort is divorce

They share everything equally because they had made the family together

Thus, they have to share even their land.

By the end of the 10-month campaign, 90.8 percent of male respondents supported daughters’ rights to inherit equally with sons. With only 70.9 percent supporting daughters’ inheritance rights before the campaign, Radio Ishingiro’s outreach has made vast strides in shifting local mindsets.

“I believe that both children are equal before the law,” a 36-year-old farmer and father to a son and daughter declared. “They should also be equal when it comes to property sharing.”

Although changing attitudes on gender equality can take generations, this campaign gave Rwandan citizens an important glimpse of the “how” and “why” behind gender-equal land policy. For the USAID LAND project, changing attitudes about gender-equal land rights in Rwanda required a groundswell of support from a diverse set of respected actors — from community leaders to radio hosts to poets. Through progressive song, dance, and entertainment, the campaign gave Rwandans a stage to share pride in gender equality as a law, and as a norm.