Chapter 2. Sub-Saharan Africa
  • 1 0000000404811396 Monetary Fund
  • | 2 0000000404811396 Monetary Fund


Gender budgeting has advanced considerably in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s. South Africa, for example, was one of the earliest adopters of gender budgeting, launching its Women’s Budget Initiative in 1995. Almost 30 countries in the region have now introduced some form of gender budgeting, with the most developed and significant initiatives in Rwanda and Uganda.

Gender budgeting has advanced considerably in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s. South Africa, for example, was one of the earliest adopters of gender budgeting, launching its Women’s Budget Initiative in 1995. Almost 30 countries in the region have now introduced some form of gender budgeting, with the most developed and significant initiatives in Rwanda and Uganda.

This chapter examines the experience in Rwanda, and to a lesser extent Uganda, for a detailed perspective on countries in the region with impressive success in advancing gender issues.1 It examines trends and correlations in the two countries in key gender equality indicators as a first step to determining whether gender budgeting improves outcomes in gender equality.

Overall, gender equality could produce big economic gains. Indeed, reducing gender inequality in the labor market and in opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa’s low-income countries to the levels observed in five fast-growing East Asian countries2 could add two-thirds of a percentage point to per capita growth (IMF 2015). And eliminating gender inequality in labor force participation could add up to 11 percent to sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP by 2025 (McKinsey & Company 2015). Further, financial inclusion for women would increase the growth-promoting potential of financial services and lower financial stability risks (Sahay and others 2015). Gender inequality is also related to higher income inequality and lower export and output diversification (Gonzales and others 2015; Kazandjian and others 2016) (Figure 2.1). Instead, gender inequality in the labor market alone cost sub-Saharan Africa some 6 percent of GDP annually during 2010–14 (UNDP 2016).

Figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1.

Global Gender Inequality Indicators

Note: HIC = High-income countries; LIC = low-income countries; MIC = middle-income countries; SWIID = Standardized World Income Inequality Database.


Strong political will to mainstream gender into government programs, underpinned by institutional and policy reforms, has been key to Rwanda’s progress in addressing gender inequality. More broadly, the country’s socioeconomic outcomes have improved significantly in the past two decades, and it is among sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest growing economies. In this, it has emerged as a global leader in women’s economic opportunities and endowments, and further advances could yield a significant growth dividend. Crucial developments include:

  • Economic growth has averaged 7.6 percent in the 10 years through 2016, and per capita income nearly doubled to $729 by 2016. Between 2004 and 2014, the poverty rate declined almost 18 percentage points to 39 percent and extreme poverty declined to 16 percent from 40 percent.

  • Rwanda’s advances in gender equality emerged, in part, as a necessary component of the rebuilding and development strategy from the mid-1990s, as women took on new roles as major actors in society and heads of households. This chapter illustrates that celebrated role.

  • Gender equality is an integral component of the development agenda, with advocacy at the highest level.

  • The country constantly engages in and supports programs to enhance economic opportunities for women, homegrown solutions to address gender inequality, and an enabling legal framework and supporting institutions— such as a dedicated gender “machinery.” This includes the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, the Gender Monitoring Office, the National Women’s Council, and the Forum for Women Parliamentarians. The provision of gender-disaggregated data has increased (Government of Rwanda 2016), allowing timely assessment of the main indicators.

In parallel, indicators of gender equality have improved significantly (Figure 2.2), and the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Gender Gap Index ranks Rwanda first among all low- and middle-income countries in closing the gender gap; the 2017 ranking places Rwanda fourth worldwide.3 Rwanda also positioned itself as one of only five countries worldwide to have reached a score of more than 80 out of 100 on the Gender Gap Index. Globally, Rwanda also ranks second in the UN’s 2015 Gender Development Index and has the lowest gender inequality in sub-Saharan Africa, as measured by the Gender Inequality Index.4

Figure 2.2.
Figure 2.2.

East African Community Gender Inequality Indicators

Source: United Nations Development Programme, Africa Human Development Report 2016.

Institutional Set-up for Gender Equality and Women Advancement

  • The Ministry for Gender and Family Promotion is the central government institution mandated to ensure strategic coordination of policy implementation of gender, family, women’s empowerment, and children’s issues. It plays a leading role in implementing the gender agenda.

  • The Gender Monitoring Office’s mandate is to effectively monitor gender main-streaming and trends in gender-based violence in public, private, civil society, and religious institutions.

  • The National Women’s Council represents the interests of women at all levels of government; disseminates information on laws, policies, and programs to promote gender equality; and builds capacity for gender advocacy.

  • The National Gender Cluster is a forum where the government, development partners, private sector, and civil society discuss planning, coordination, and prioritization of gender policies.

  • The Forum for Rwandan Women Parliamentarians oversees and advocates for the enactment of gender-sensitive laws.

  • Within Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense, National Police, National Public Prosecution Authority, and the Gender Monitoring Office, “gender desks” have been established. At local government levels, there is a gender and family promotion officer. At central government ministries and agencies, directors of planning have been designated “gender focal points.”

Source: Gender Monitoring Office (2010) and Government of Rwanda (2016).

This section highlights the policy and institutional reforms that have driven the trends in gender equality in Rwanda. The interactions among households, markets, and institutions shape the relationship between economic development and gender equality. In doing so, they ultimately determine gender outcomes (World Bank 2012). Thus, effectively addressing gender gaps (such as in the labor market) often requires changes in how markets work, in the laws and regulations (formal institutions), and in the societal beliefs and norms (informal institutions). In this context, public policy becomes an important lever through which market and institutional constraints are addressed to support gender equality. Rwanda’s framework for advancing gender equality has included various institutional and policy reforms, underpinned by high-level political commitment.

Institutional Framework

Rwanda’s legal framework provides for equal treatment of women and lays out concrete goals for achieving this. The 2003 constitution, as revised in 2015, enshrines the fundamental principles of gender equality and provides a platform for gender mainstreaming in all sectors. It sets out to operationalize these principles by establishing 30 percent quotas for female representation in all decision-making structures. Similarly, the legal framework contains several supporting provisions, including ensuring equality for women in land ownership and inheritance (2013 land law), and equal access and pay for employment (2009 labor law). Additionally, several bodies have been set up at national and decentralized levels of government to advance gender issues (Box 2.1).

According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators data set in 2015, women held 64 percent of Rwanda’s parliamentary seats (Figure 2.3). For comparison, only in Bolivia did women hold more than 50 percent of seats, and globally women hold 21 percent of parliamentary seats on average. At other levels of government in Rwanda, women comprised 50 percent of the judiciary, 39 percent of the cabinet, 40 percent of provincial governors, and 43 percent of district council members (Government of Rwanda 2016).

Figure 2.3.
Figure 2.3.

Seats Held by Women in National Parliament, 1990–2014

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators; and IMF staff calculations. Note: GRB = gender-responsive budgeting country.

Public Policy Framework

The National Gender Policy guides the promotion of gender equality in Rwanda and is embedded in the country’s development strategies. The policy outlines principal guidelines upon which sectoral policies and programs are based “to integrate gender issues in their respective social, cultural, economic, and political planning and programming” (Government of Rwanda 2010). The policy informs and is operationalized in the government’s development frameworks, that is, Vision 2020 and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies.

Vision 2020, the longer-term framework, seeks to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. The Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies operationalize this through medium-term (seven-year) goals and strategies. In both frameworks, gender equality and women’s empowerment have been mainstreamed as cross-cutting issues. In addition, women’s empowerment is a critical component of the Seven-Year Government Program, which outlines the medium-term development vision of the elected government. In line with this commitment, the government anticipates increasing the number of active women in cooperatives and expanding their use of loans from financial institutions. It targets a share of at least 50 percent loans from Umurenge SACCOs, microfinance institutions, and banks used by women.5

Rwanda’s social protection programs also have an embedded role in tackling gender inequalities. The government’s social protection strategy seeks overall to build a system that reduces poverty, inequality, and vulnerability from shocks. Evidence from countries with well-established safety nets reveals that—when effective and properly targeted—these can play a powerful role in combating poverty and inequality. In Rwanda, as in most countries, female-headed households are more likely to be poor than male-headed households (44 versus 37 percent) and more likely to be extremely poor (20 percent versus 15 percent) (Government of Rwanda Integrated Household Survey 2014).

The Role of Informal Institutions

Gender relations are often deeply rooted in a society’s economic and social norms and practices, which in turn shape women’s economic opportunities (such as type of education and nature of jobs a man or woman can do) or how endowments are distributed between men and women. On a macro level, these norms can influence how economic, political, legal, and regulatory systems are designed and implemented, sometimes to the detriment of women.

In Rwanda, studies reveal that certain socioeconomic and social norms could impact the success of gender reforms. Debusscher and Ansoms (2013) highlight that women in Rwanda, as in many countries, disproportionately contribute to significant but largely undervalued care work such as household tasks, child-rearing, and care of the family and community. The International Development Law Organization (2013) also finds that in rural Rwanda—while the statutory reforms have strengthened women’s rights to land through marriage, inheritance, or on death of a spouse—their actual ownership and rights to the land are more symbolic and less strictly enforced under customary law and practice.

Gender Budgeting

Operationally, gender budgeting has emerged as one of Rwanda’s key policy tools, and the practice helps evaluate how fiscal policies may affect men and women differently. The country began its first gender budgeting initiative in the early 2000s amid the government’s new emphasis on gender mainstreaming in policies and programs, and has since evolved into an integral part of budgeting.

The government launched its initial gender budgeting initiative in 2002, led by the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion. But the effort relied on external financing and experts, developed little local capacity, and was not sustained.

A second attempt at gender budgeting began in 2008, with the Ministry of Finance in charge and UNIFEM (now UN Women) providing support. The effort coincided with larger public financial management reforms, as the country moved to program budgeting and recognized that the National Gender Policy could not succeed unless “adequate resources are allocated to programmes and activities related to it” (“Gender Monitoring Office” 2010).

Beginning with four focus sectors—agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure—gender budgeting included reporting instruments, such as the gender budget statement, to ensure accountability, require analysis of gender-related goals, and report gender-disaggregated employment data for the civil service. The country followed up by introducing monitoring and evaluation for gender budgeting. In 2011 the Gender Monitoring Office, in its annual report, evaluated the 2011–12 Gender Budget Statement, examining progress and challenges associated with implementing the statement.

The 2013 Organic Budget Law mandated gender budgeting with requirements for gender budget statements and gender-related goals. In addition to the national-level push for gender budgeting, Rwanda established a local effort, asking governments to determine which services had a specific gender-related goal.

The 2015/2016 Gender Monitoring Office Annual Report analyzes the impacts, challenges, and recommendations of the gender budget statement interventions. Local and central governments focused on the infrastructure, education, health, trade, disease control, environment, and housing/urban development sectors. Districts chose social protection and agriculture as additional sectors, while the national level ministries concentrated on justice, youth, refugee management, information and communication technology, land management, mining, and water resources.

The report finds that resources allocated to the gender budget statement increase on average from the previous fiscal year. The positive impacts of the gender budget statement include improved access to water, new classrooms at the primary and secondary levels, and greater access to health services due to the construction of new facilities. The Gender Monitoring Office notes that, among other recommendations, gender-disaggregated data collection and analysis needs to improve, which would enhance the government’s ability to plan, budget, and report.


Starting in the late 1990s, the Forum for Women in Democracy drove Uganda’s initial gender budgeting effort, with a primary focus on education, health (in particular, maternal mortality), and agriculture. By the mid-2000s, the country’s Poverty Eradication Action Plan incorporated a gender focus. The fiscal 2004/2005 budget call circular, issued by the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development, incorporated guidelines for gender budgeting for ministries and local governments.

The fiscal 2014/2015 circular further improved the country’s gender budgeting effort by requiring that agencies and ministries identify specific actions aimed at improving gender equality and collect data disaggregated by sex, age, disability, and location. Promoting gender equality was one of the objectives of the 2010–15 National Development Plan, with gender budgeting included as a tool for achieving gender equality; local governments have also incorporated gender-related objectives into their five-year development plans.

Village budget clubs offer citizens a forum in which they can voice their preferences, monitor the use of public funds, and hold government accountable (Dietl and others 2014); these clubs allow women to advocate for spending on maternal health, infrastructure, and education.

An innovative aspect of Uganda’s gender budgeting program is its Gender and Equity Compliance Certificate. The Equal Opportunities Commission is tasked with reviewing Ministerial Policy Statements and assessing their responsiveness to and compliance with legal gender and equity reporting and outcomes. In partnership with UN Women, the Equal Opportunities Commission launched in January 2018 its Gender and Equity Budgeting reference tools, which included Gender and Equity Compacts for eight sectors.

The 2016/2017 report shows that of the 56 statements reviewed, 45 received a passing mark. However, the report also points out that despite the ministries’ commitment to complying with the legal requirements for gender and equity in the budget process, their efforts were hindered by lack of capacity, training, and financial support. Some ministries identified gender-related outcomes yet did not allocate funding to achieve those goals. To address these issues, the government is developing a gender budgeting curriculum to standardize training across agencies. Furthermore, the government is updating its tools for assessing gender compliance in Ministerial Policy Statements.

Assessment of Gender Budgeting in Rwanda and Uganda

The chapter examines education enrollment, female labor force participation, and two measures of overall gender inequality (time-consistent versions of the UN Development Programme’s Gender Development Index and Gender Inequality Index) as a first step to assessing the impact of gender budgeting in Rwanda and Uganda.6

Figures 2.4 and 2.5 compare progress in Rwanda and Uganda to a group of low-income, non-resource-intensive sub-Saharan African countries. This provides an overview of country-level progress on key gender equality indicators, such as female school enrollment and maternal mortality, that are often included as part of gender budgeting programs. Looking at 1990 compared to 2013 allows us to examine the situation in both countries during roughly the decade before and after they introduced gender budgeting.

Figure 2.4.
Figure 2.4.

Trends in Gender Inequality in Rwanda and Its Regional Counterparts

Sources: World Bank, World Development Indicators; Stotsky, Kolovich, and Kebhaj (2016); and IMF staff estimates.Note: SALIDCs stands for non-oil and non-primary product exporting low-income developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which consists of Benin, Cameroon, Comoros, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sâo Tome and Príncipe, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia. Higher Gender Development Index scores indicate greater gender equality, while higher Gender Inequality Index scores imply greater inequality.
Figure 2.5.
Figure 2.5.

Trends in Gender Inequality in Uganda and its Regional Counterparts

Sources: World Bank, World Development Indicators; Stotsky, Kolovich, and Kebhaj (2016); and IMF staff estimates.Note: SALIDCs stands for non-oil and non-primary product exporting low-income developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, which consists of Benin, Cameroon, Comoros, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Príncipe, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia. Higher Gender Development Index scores indicate greater gender equality, while higher Gender Inequality Index scores imply greater inequality.

In 1990 Rwanda had already achieved gender parity in primary school enrollment, but in Uganda, only 80 girls for every 100 boys were enrolled in primary school, a ratio that placed Uganda behind sub-Saharan African peers. By 2009, however, Uganda had realized gender parity in primary school enrollment, with the comparison group of sub-Saharan African countries lagging both Rwanda and Uganda. Rwanda had almost double the maternal mortality ratio of its comparator group in 1990, but by 2013 the country reduced its maternal mortality ratio to below that of its peers. Uganda, too, outperformed regional peers in this indicator by 2013.

The World Bank’s World Development Indicators provide data on health expenditure as a share of GDP. As can be seen in Figure 2.6, health spending as a share of GDP in Rwanda increased markedly after 2002, the year in which gender budgeting was first introduced. Note, however, that this figure does not allow us to determine if a causal relationship exists.7

Figure 2.6.
Figure 2.6.

Health Expenditure as a Share of GDP, 1996–2013

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators; and IMF staff calculations.

The chapter now turns to indicators of gender equality drawn from the countries’ household survey data. Using data from the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) STATcompiler, we examine demographic and health indicators for Rwanda and Uganda.8

Literacy rates for women ages 15–49 increased in both Uganda and Rwanda between 2000 and 2014 (Figure 2.7). In Uganda, literacy rates for women dipped slightly between the 2000–01 DHS but went up to over 60 percent in 2011. In Rwanda, literacy rates started at 66 percent in 2000 and steadily increased to over 80 percent in 2014–15 for women ages 15–49.

Figure 2.7.
Figure 2.7.

Percentage of Women Who Are Literate

Source: ICF International, 2015. The DHS Program STATcompiler. Funded by USAID. Accessed July 19, 2017.

In Uganda, education of women grew steadily between 2000 and 2011. More than 50 percent of women ages 15–49 interviewed had some level of primary education, including completion of primary education and attendance without completion. The percentage of women with no education declined by more than half during 1995–2011, while the percentage of women who had attained some level of secondary education almost doubled. The percentage of women who have completed more than secondary education is less than 10 percent; this number steadily grew from 0.2 percent to more than 5 percent from 2000 to 2014.

In Rwanda, at least 60 percent of women interviewed had completed some level of primary education in 2000; by 2014 the percentage had increased to about 65 percent. The percentage of women with no education declined by more than half, while women with secondary education doubled. The percentage of women with more than secondary education remains below 5 percent (Figure 2.8).

Figure 2.8.
Figure 2.8.

Highest Level of Education

Source: ICF International, 2015. The DHS Program STATcompiler. Funded by USAID. Accessed July 19, 2017.Note: The total for primary and secondary education is calculated by combining women with some education level and those who have completed the level.

Examining gender-oriented goals in health care that may be attributed to budgeting initiatives, we looked first at antenatal visits for pregnancy, using a measure of the percentage of women who had live births, in the three years preceding the survey, and who had received antenatal care. Between 2000 and 2011, the percentage of women who did not have antenatal care declined from about 6 percent to 4 percent, and women who made only one visit declined by half from about 8 percent to 4 percent. The percentage of women with at least four antenatal visits or more increased by 7 percentage points (Figure 2.9). In Rwanda, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of women who had not had antenatal care during their pregnancy declined from 7 percent to 0.7 percent, while the percentage of women with at least four antenatal visits or more increased from about 10 percent to close to 44 percent.

Figure 2.9.
Figure 2.9.

Antenatal Visits for Pregnancy

Source: ICF International, 2015. The DHS Program STATcompiler. Accessed July 21, 2017.

As can be seen in Figure 2.10, the percentage of women in Uganda who received antenatal care from a skilled provider increased by 4 percentage points between 2000 and 2011. This leaves a small percentage, 5 percent, who either did not receive any antenatal care or who received it from a non-skilled provider. In Rwanda, the percentage of women receiving antenatal care from a skilled provider was close to 100 percent in 2014. This is an increase of about 7 percentage points from 2000. The provision of skilled antenatal care may have contributed to the decline in the percentage of women who have not received any antenatal care in the two countries.

Figure 2.10.
Figure 2.10.

Antenatal Visits with Skilled Providers

Source: ICF International, 2015. The DHS Program STATcompiler. Accessed July 21, 2017.

In Uganda, close to 90 percent of households did not have water on the premises, although households with water on the premises increased from about 3 percent in 1995 to close to 13 percent in 2011 (Figure 2.11). The majority of households spent more than 30 minutes round trip to access drinking water, still quite high but falling from about 59 percent in 1995 to 54 percent in 2011. Households for which the water trip took less than 30 minutes declined from about 38 percent in 1995 to about 33 percent in 2011.

Figure 2.11.
Figure 2.11.

Time to Obtain Water (round trip) Household Water Sources in Percentages

Source: ICF International, 2015. The DHS Program STATcompiler. Accessed July 21, 2017.

In Rwanda, close to 90 percent of households had no water on the premises. The percentage of households with water on the premises increased from about 6 percent in 2000 to close to 11 percent in 2011. The majority of households spent more than 30 minutes round trip accessing drinking water, although the number declined from about 56 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2014. Households for which the water trip took less than 30 minutes increased from about 39 percent in 2000 to close to 41 percent in 2014.

Worldwide, gender inequality in economic participation manifests itself most clearly in the amount and type of employment. In almost all countries, women are more likely than men to engage in low-economic-productivity activities. They are also more likely to be in low-wage or unpaid employment or work in the informal wage sector. In agriculture, especially in Africa, women operate smaller plots of land and farm less profitable crops. As entrepreneurs, they tend to manage smaller firms in less-profitable sectors, while in formal employment they concentrate in “female” occupations and sectors such as teaching, nursing, and clerical jobs (World Bank 2011).

In Rwanda, female labor force participation is broadly equal to that of men, but differences exist in participation rates across sectors. At about 85.5 percent, the share of females participating in the labor force is similar to that of men (86 percent) and rates observed in the East African Community.

However, most women work in agriculture, mostly as independent farmers, compared to about two-fifths of men (Figure 2.12)—similar to many sub-Saharan African and low-income countries. Because the agricultural sector’s employment share tends to decrease as education levels rise, better access to quality education, combined with other measures (such as changing social norms regarding household and care responsibilities), could help women escape “agricultural feminization.”

Figure 2.12.
Figure 2.12.

Economic Participation

Note: EAC = East African Community.

Across countries, gender wage gaps generally reflect several interrelated factors, including occupational segregation, weak labor laws, social norms, implicit bias, and discrimination. Occupational segregation indirectly implies that women will tend to be overrepresented in certain occupations. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, gender pay gaps are broadly associated with the high share of female employment in agriculture and informal sectors, the time women spend on unpaid household work and care, high fertility rates, and discriminatory social norms (United Nations 2016). Direct discrimination, on the other hand, manifests itself when women with the same capability and experience are treated differently.

Gender gaps in wages and earnings in Rwanda remain significant, reflecting both direct and indirect discrimination. Rwanda ranked first for wage equality in the 2016 Global Gender Gap, but slipped to eighth on estimated earned income. This may reflect that women are underrepresented in the nonfarm wage sector (Figure 2.12) but overrepresented in independent agriculture (Gender Monitoring Office 2017). In particular, they are often involved in lower-valued subsistence agriculture, while men are more involved in cash crop production and marketing.

Rwanda outperforms the average sub-Saharan African country on educational equality. Literacy rates among women were above 65 percent in 2015, up some 16 percentage points from 2000 levels, and compared to 76 percent for men (Government of Rwanda 2014). The growth in women’s literacy rates has therefore outpaced that of men over the past decade and compares favorably with the sub-Saharan African average (59 percent in 2011). However, women’s literacy in most other East African Community countries, such as Burundi, Kenya, and Tanzania, is still higher than in Rwanda. Nevertheless, Rwanda performs strongly on youth literacy (85 percent for females compared to 88 percent for males in 2015), and primary education is virtually the same for boys and girls, suggesting that Rwanda will catch up to its peers (Government of Rwanda 2015; Figure 2.13).

Figure 2.13.
Figure 2.13.

Regional Education Equality

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators.

The Rwandan government has implemented specific policies to improve education opportunities for girls. These include the Girls’ Education Policy, led by the Ministry of Education, which specifically aims at the progressive elimination of gender disparities in education and training as well as in management structures (Government of Rwanda 2008), and the universal 12-year basic education and Technical Vocational Education Training programs, which also have specific goals and measures to reduce gender imbalance in access and enrollment.9

In 2014 net enrollment of girls in primary school almost equaled that of boys (Figure 2.13) and, in 2015, girls’ attendance exceeded that of boys at the primary and secondary levels (Government of Rwanda 2016).

Information and communications technology is helping to close the gender gap, such as through the e-learning systems, and Rwanda is also a signatory of the 2017 “Kigali Declaration,” which aims to close the gender gap in science and technology. However, a gender gap remains in technical and vocational education and training, with female enrollment at almost 42 percent in 2015, still some 16 percentage points short of male enrollment, even if up significantly.

Government interventions have improved health indicators for and relating to women. Maternal mortality has been reduced from more than 1,000 deaths per 100,000 births in 2000, to 210 in 2015, better than the sub-Saharan Africa average and among East African Community peers. Adolescent fertility rates (births per 1,000 women ages 15–19) have been halved from 49 in 2000 to 26 in 2015 (compared to 100 in sub-Saharan Africa). One of the keys to this success has been the community-based health insurance scheme (Mutuelle de Santé), which has helped provide quality health care to the poor, especially women, at affordable rates. In addition, homegrown solutions have improved the health status of women and children in Rwanda. These include community health workers, kitchen gardens, community kitchens to demonstrate the preparation of a balanced diet, and the Shisha Kibondo program (where pregnant and lactating mothers and children receive fortified blended food supplements).

Rwanda recently introduced laws to remove constraints for women’s access to physical assets, enhance their economic opportunities, and correct legal discrimination (Government of Rwanda 2016). These include:

  • A law governing land management and guaranteeing equal rights for land access, ownership, and utilization (2013). Women’s land ownership is at 26 percent compared to 18 percent for men, and 54 percent by both spouses. And, with women now being able to use land as an economic resource to secure loans and run business, their financial exclusion has halved.

  • A law that prohibits any form of discrimination based on gender, sex, race, or religion in political parties (2013)

  • A law instituting gender-responsive budgeting (2013) that enforces accountability measures for gender-sensitive resource allocation across sectors

  • A law governing matrimonial regimes, donations granted or received within a family, and successions (2016), ensuring equal inheritance rights and contributing to women’s equal share on family properties including land

  • A law regulating labor in Rwanda, providing for equal opportunities and equal pay for women and prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace (2009)

  • A law establishing and governing maternity leave benefits scheme (2016). This law allows a mother to take three months fully paid maternity leave, up to one hour out of official working hours for 12 months to spend time with her child, and four days leave for fathers during the wife’s maternity leave.

The changes in laws have resulted in a more level playing field. Women are now more likely to own property and provide loan collateral than women in neighboring countries (United Nations 2016), enhancing their productive and financial access capabilities. The 2013/14 DHS showed minimal differences in land ownership between male-headed and female-headed households (89.5 percent and 88.5 percent, respectively). And more equal distribution of property has relaxed collateral constraints, advancing financial inclusion.

Rwanda has made progress in promoting political inclusion of women. The constitution provides for quotas of a share of at least 30 percent for women in decision-making positions, thus getting women into decision-making positions at all levels. For example, in 2015, when the global average was 21 percent, women held 64 percent of Rwanda’s parliamentary seats. Women comprise half of the judiciary and provincial governors, 40 percent of the cabinet, 32 percent of ambassadors, and 44 percent of district advisory council members.

Impact on Growth

How has this impacted economic growth? A decomposition exercise using the estimates of the determinants of growth in a panel of 115 advanced, emerging market, and developing economies (IMF 2015) helps attribute differences between average real GDP per capita growth rates in Rwanda and those of other economies to macroeconomic fundamentals and policies (See Figures 2.14 and 2.15).

Figure 2.14.
Figure 2.14.

Growth Differential between East African Community (EAC) and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)


Sources: IMF, World Economic Outlook database; PRS Group; World Bank, World Development Indicators; and IMF staff estimates.Note: A bar with a negative value denotes what share of the shortfall in sub-Saharan Africa’s growth is explained by a particular variable. The sum of all negative contributions exceeds the observed growth shortfall indicated in the chart because of the offsetting catch-up effect.
Figure 2.15.
Figure 2.15.

Growth Differential between ASEAN-5 and Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Economies


Sources: IMF, World Economic Outlook database; PRS Group; World Bank, World Development Indicators; and IMF staff estimates.Note: ASEAN-5 = Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam. A bar with a negative value denotes what share of the shortfall in sub-Saharan Africa’s growth is explained by a particular variable. The sum of all negative contributions exceeds the observed growth shortfall indicated in the chart because of the offsetting catch-up effect.

The results suggest that greater gender equality has contributed to higher growth in Rwanda compared to regional peers, and the gains of further reducing inequality are significant.

  • Rwanda’s GDP growth rate averaged about 2.2 percentage points above the East African Community and the sub-Saharan African average during 2005–14. The results highlight that both female legal equity and gender equality in opportunities and the labor market have contributed ½ percentage point to this growth differential (Figure 2.14).

  • Growth gains from further lowering gender inequality could also be significant. Specifically, reducing gender inequality in Rwanda to levels observed in benchmark countries in Latin America and ASEAN could boost per capita GDP by nearly ½ percentage point, highlighting another avenue for development in addition to improving infrastructure and human capital accumulation (Figure 2.15).

Conclusions and Lessons Learned

Rwanda has made great strides in reducing gender inequality over the past two decades, and much of this improvement coincides with the country’s gender budgeting effort. While we have not established a causal link between Rwanda’s gender budgeting initiative and the outcomes presented in this chapter, we can take away several lessons learned from the Rwandan experience.

The Ministry of Finance took the lead on the wave of gender budgeting introduced in 2008. The organic budget law, enacted in fiscal year 2012/13, makes Gender Budget Statements mandatory. Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa to integrate gender budgeting into program and results-based budgeting through Gender Budget Statements at the sectoral level.

Identifying and integrating gender-oriented goals into the normal budgetary process underpinned Rwanda’s effort. The country also sought a comprehensive approach through its selection of pilot sectors, which covered social, economic, and development/infrastructure components. Four pilot ministries were involved: agriculture, health, infrastructure, and education. The Ministry of Agriculture devoted 32 percent of its budget to gender-targeted outputs in fiscal year 2010/11. The three other ministries had smaller shares for gender-based programs (ranging from 4–13 percent).

Rwanda is one of the few countries in the world that works to monitor and provide accountability for the gender budgeting effort. The Gender Monitoring Office is a constitutional regulatory body that focuses on monitoring gender mainstreaming, gender-based violence and injustices, and gender-related international commitments. The Gender Monitoring Office, in contrast to the Equal Opportunities Commission in Uganda, monitors budget statements, provides technical guidance, and recommends targeted efforts to strengthen capacity for gender analysis.

Civil society is engaged in budget analysis and advocacy with the support from East African budget and gender budget advocacy networks. Rwanda’s experience shows that the engagement and leadership/strategic partnership of the Ministry of Finance are crucial to begin to make headway in and sustain gender-responsive budgeting. In addition, ministries have leeway in identifying issues that are critical to gender inequality, allowing civil servants flexibility in determining the most effective approaches to meeting gender goals.

Rwanda has made important advances in promoting gender equality through various policy and institutional initiatives, and strong political will. The gains in institutional and policy reforms for gender equality have placed the country among the global leaders in advancing gender equality. The increased emphasis on gender-responsive budgeting, higher access to finance including through microfinance schemes, and improvements in access to health and education services, provide a good base for enhancing the productivity of women in the economy and eliminating gender-related income inequalities. Various legal reforms have also granted women opportunities to fully participate in economic activities and improve their representation in decision-making positions.

Rwanda outperforms most of its peers in terms of women’s economic participation and opportunity. The World Economic Forum’s 2016 Gender Gap Report ranks Rwanda at fourteenth globally on women’s economic participation and first in labor force participation and wage equality for similar work.

Several opportunities exist to consolidate these gains in making gender equality an integral part of inclusive growth. Female labor force participation beyond the agricultural sector could be enhanced through further advancement of women’s access to quality health and education services. In this respect, improving women’s access to technical and vocational training could improve economic participation and opportunities beyond agriculture and informal activities. There is also room to close the gap in access to credit in the formal banking sector, which provides more than 80 percent of credit to the economy, but only about 22 percent of that goes to women. Increased access to credit in the banking sector would support efforts to advance women’s entrepreneurship. Recent initiatives by the authorities to collect gender-disaggregated financial data will help further understand gender dimensions of access to financial services, which should help in designing targeted policies.

Underlying all these opportunities is the importance of ensuring that reforms in the formal institutional landscape are commensurate with informal institutional changes (legal, social or cultural) to enable women to exploit their full economic potential.

Similar to Rwanda, the Ugandan effort attempts to address gender inequality in several sectors of the economy. Uganda conducts gender budgeting at the national and subnational levels, with both attempting to address women’s needs in education and health in particular. An innovative feature of the program is the Certificate on Gender and Equity Compliance, which monitors compliance with gender-oriented goals and indicates the country’s commitment to promoting gender budgeting. We note that the country could supplement its efforts with a more formal assessment mechanism.


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Annex 2.1.

Summary of Gender Budgeting Initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa

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For details on gender budgeting efforts in sub-Saharan Africa, see Stotsky, Kolovich, and Kebhaj (2016).


Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam (ASEAN 5). See also Annex 2.1 for a summary of gender budgeting efforts in Rwanda and Uganda.


The Gender Gap Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health, and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups.


The Gender Development Index is based on the sex-disaggregated Human Development Index and is defined as a ratio of the female-to-male index. It measures differences between male and female achievements in health, education, and equitable command over economic resources. The Gender Inequality Index, on the other hand, measures gender-based inequalities on three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity. Thus, the Gender Inequality Index can be interpreted as the loss in human development due to inequality between female and male achievements in the three given dimensions.


Community savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs), known in Rwanda as Umurenge SACCOs.


See Stotsky, Kolovich, and Kebhaj (2016) for details on the calculations of the two time-consistent gender indices.


For preliminary evidence on the causal relationship between gender-budgeting programs and gender-equality outcomes, see Stostky and Zaman (2016), who investigate various gender-equality outcomes in Indian states with and without gender-budgeting initiatives.


The DHS is a nationally representative household survey typically conducted every five years that provides data on population, health, and nutrition indicators. The DHS Program STATcompiler allows users to create tables based on thousands of demographic and health indicators across more than 90 countries. See


Rwanda’s Technical Vocational Education Training policy provides for special programs to “enable women to update their knowledge and professional skills for entering the workforce, executing income generating activities or occupying better position” (Government of Rwanda 2014).