Unpaid care work in Rwanda : NGOs’ actions towards women’s empowerment
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Rwanda is a leading country in gender equality indicators such as women’s political participation and health. However, women’s status remains largely defined by unpaid care work (UCW), a phenomenon that threatens women’s access to education, income, and well-being. To promote gender equality, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have implemented initiatives towards recognising, reducing, and redistributing UCW. This study analyses the approaches of five selected NGOs upon women’s UCW in rural Rwanda and focuses on how conducive they are to the promotion of women's empowerment, based on Kabeer’s (1999) and Moser’s (1989) theories on women’s empowerment. This research included semi-structured individual interviews developed remotely, and the revision of NGOs’ reports and the National Gender Policy. The results indicate common approaches by the chosen civil society organisations regarding unpaid care work. First, they consider that UCW Recognition implies perceiving care not (only) as an obstacle but (also) as an empowering force. Second, they promote UCW Reduction strategies that give women access to resources and other opportunities, but that can also create a discourse of ‘reduce to produce’ that threatens women’s agency. Third, they support UCW Redistribution as a key catalyser of gender equality by supporting women’s empowerment and further social changes. The joint work of the NGOs and the government can foster the transformation of Rwanda’s gender equality model, so it responds to challenges such as women’s empowerment and the elimination of intimate partner violence. This research aims to contribute to academic literature in gender and development by presenting a case from the Global South.