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Photo: Plan International


The context: Rwanda is a small landlocked country that borders Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The most densely populated country in Africa, about one-quarter of its citizens are adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19, and 40% live below the poverty line.[1]

Education and learning: Although younger adolescents’ access to primary school is good, older adolescents have only limited access to secondary school. Enrolment rates are under one-third for girls and just over one-quarter for boys.[2] Girls are more likely to enrol in both primary and secondary school than boys, but recent trends are concerning: over the last decade, girls’ primary repetition rate has increased, their primary completion rate has declined, their transition rate to lower-secondary school has dropped and their enrolment in upper-secondary school has declined relative to that of boys.[3]

Bodily autonomy, integrity and freedom from violence: Child marriage is rare in Rwanda, but girls are vulnerable to other forms of violence – including physical and sexual violence. Sexual violence is often perpetrated by older men (‘sugar daddies’) who exploit girls by promising them money or gifts in exchange for sex.[4] It is rarely reported – in part because prosecution rates are low. Corporal punishment is very common in Rwanda and impacts both boys and girls at both home and at school.[5]

Health, nutrition, and sexual and reproductive health: Younger adolescents are comparatively unlikely to become pregnant in Rwanda. However, by the age of 18, one-fifth of girls are pregnant.[6] In addition, Rwanda is one of the few countries in which rates of teenage pregnancy are increasing. Rwandan 18–19-year-old girls are 10 times more likely to become HIV-positive than boys of the same age, in part due to the fact that their partners are older men.[7] Little is known about adolescent girls’ and boys’ broader health or nutrition.

Psychosocial well-being: Asked to identify the important drivers of their own happiness, adolescent girls in Rwanda report attending – and succeeding in – school, as well as having parental support, friends and a measure of control over their own lives.[8] Poverty, unplanned pregnancy and violence are reported by girls to be detrimental to their well-being.[9]

Voice and agency: Rwanda is an international leader on women’s access to voice and agency, boasting the world’s highest rate of women’s parliamentary representation at the national level.[10] Research found that some adolescent girls see the large number of female MPs as role models, encouraging them to raise their aspirations.[11] However, adolescent girls’ access to decision-making at household and community levels is limited by social norms that encourage them to do as adults and men tell them.[12]

Economic empowerment: Poverty limits the trajectories of Rwandan adolescents. Nearly 40% are poor and nearly 20% are extremely poor.[13] Most older teenagers are employed, primarily in agriculture.[14] Girls are disadvantaged compared to boys. Not only are their unemployment rates higher, but they are more likely to be confined to the agricultural sector and to be unpaid workers.[15]

The evidence base: Our Evidence Mappings concluded that there is considerable evidence about adolescent girls in Rwanda – but that, outside of educational statistics, much of it centres around older girls. In addition, sexual and reproductive health is over-represented.[16] [17]

[1] UNDP (2018) Rwanda. http://www.rw.undp.org/

[2] NISR (2016). EICV4 Thematic Report Youth. Kigali: NISR.

[3] NISR (2015) Rwanda Statistical Yearbook 2015. Kigali: NISR.

[4] Abbott, P., Mutesi, L., and Norris, E. (2015) Gender Analysis for Sustainable Livelihoods and Participatory Governance in Rwanda. Kigali: Oxfam.

[5] Laterite and Plan (2014) Year 3 Evaluation of the “Empowering Adolescent Girls through Education” Programme, Final Report. Kigali: Plan Rwanda.

[6] NISR (2016). EICV4 Thematic Report Youth. Kigali: NISR.

[7] Bloom, S.S., Cannon, A., and Negroustoueva S. (2014) Know Your HIV/AIDS Epidemic from a Gender Perspective, Rwanda Report. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Measure Evaluation and USAID. Botea, I., Chakravarty, S.

[8] Goh, Z. (2012) Girl Hub Rwanda: 12+ programme. Narrative Analysis Report. Cognitive Edge Pte. Ltd and Girl Hub Rwanda.

[9] Botea, I., Chakravarty, S. and Haddock, S. (2015) The Adolescent Girls Initiative in Rwanda. Final Evaluation Report. Washington DC: World Bank.

[10] World Bank (2017) ‘Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments’. Available: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SG.GEN.PARL.ZS

[11] Powley, E. (2007) Rwanda: The impact of women legislators on policy outcomes affecting children and families. New York: UNICEF.

[12] NISR (2016). EICV4 Thematic Report Youth. Kigali: NISR.

[13] Ibid.

[14] NISR (2016b) Labour Force Survey 2016 Pilot report. http:// www.ilo.org/public/libdoc/igo/P/488625/488625(2016)110. pdf

[15] Ibid.

[16] Stavropoulou, M. and Gupta-Archer, N. (2017a) Adolescent girls’ capabilities in Rwanda: The state of the evidence. London: GAGE/ODI.

[17] Stavropoulou, M. and Gupta-Archer, N. with Marcus R. (2017b) Adolescent girls’ capabilities in Rwanda: The state of the evidence on programme effectiveness. London: GAGE/ ODI.