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Adolescents, Rwanda Adolescents on their way to school, Rwanda. Plan International


Rwanda is one of the most densely populated country on the African continent. The Rwandan government’s ambitious 2020 Vision aims to broaden the economy, by expanding non-agricultural sectors, and achieve middle-income status by the end of the decade. While considerable progress has been made, about 40% of Rwandans still live below the poverty line. Over half of the population are children under the age of 19—in part due to high birth rates and in part a legacy of the 1994 genocide.

Education and learning: Girls are now more likely to enrol in both primary and secondary school than boys. Due to higher demands on their time for household labour, girls’ drop-out rate at the secondary level is higher than boys’, and their national exam scores are lower.

Bodily integrity: While child marriage is rare in Rwanda, girls are vulnerable to other forms of violence – including physical and sexual violence. Physical violence against girls is common, with nearly a quarter (24%) of 15-19-year-old girls reporting that they have ever experienced physical violence. Sexual violence is often perpetrated by older men (‘sugar daddies’) with whom girls are involved but is rarely reported.

Sexual and reproductive health: While Rwanda’s adolescent fertility rate is low, it is one of the few countries in which rates are increasing. Rwandan 18-19-year-old girls are ten times more likely to become HIV+ than boys of the same age.

Nutrition: Malnutrition remains common among Bangladeshi girls, which is especially problematic given their pregnancy rates.

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

Voice and agency: On many levels, Rwanda has made remarkable progress towards gender equality; for example, it has the world’s highest rate of women’s parliamentary representation at the national level (64% in 2016). Girls and young women remain disproportionately underrepresented in decision-making at household and community level due to social norms that encourage them to acquiesce in adults’ and men’s demands.

Economic empowerment: Poverty limits the trajectories of Rwandan girls: in 2013-14, 39% of girls between the ages of 14 and 19 were poor and 17% were extremely poor. Most adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are employed, primarily in agriculture.