Rwanda: Striving for gender equality in local planning processes

Country: Rwanda
Project: Striving for gender equality in citizen-oriented participatory governance

Submitted by: One Mainstreaming team (Anna Emil & Dieneke ter Huurne) and the Decentralisation and Good
Governance programme (Dominique Habimana, Celine Mukamana, Tristan Powell)

“Rwandan culture and patriarchal systems act as limiting factors for women. Men feel they
have power over women and women also feel under men. Motivating women to participate
is a challenge. It is important also to help men understand how to set a good example and
treat women equally and with respect and consideration.”
Augustin NTAWUHIGIMANA, pastor of the local Kegeme Diocese church in Nyamagabe


GIZ Rwanda is implementing a Decentralisation and Good Governance (DGG) Programme in cooperation with
the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government (MINALOC). Within GIZ Rwanda, the One Mainstreaming Team acts
as an in-house support and advisory structure for mainstreaming of gender equality, inclusion of people with
disabilities, HIV and population dynamics in all GIZ programmes. Together, DGG and the One Mainstreaming
team initiated a gender mainstreaming intervention in the Citizen-Centred Planning and Monitoring &
Evaluation Process in 2014/15. The intervention was planned and implemented in Nyamagabe district in the
South of Rwanda, where the DGG Programme supports the Initiative pour la Participation Citoyenne (IPC). This
association of five Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) intends to make local planning processes more receptive to
citizen priorities. The cooperation between IPC and the local authorities has so far managed to build trust
between CSOs and the local government and enabled numerous opinion leaders and ordinary citizens to
influence local government plans. The success of the intervention shows from the fact that at least 80% of
citizen’s priorities were taken into account in the local development plan of Nyamagabe district in 2016.

Promoting Gender Equality

To foster good governance and assure quality of local development processes, it is essential to strengthen the
role of citizens in the making, monitoring and evaluation of local policies. In Rwanda, a crucial planning and
accountability instrument is the so-called Imihigo. This Rwandan-developed performance contract is drafted
once a year by policy makers at all government levels. The Imihigo contains the plans of the administrative unit
for meeting national priorities (e.g. in terms of infrastructure, agriculture, social programs) at their respective
level. Because measurable targets are developed at the grassroots level, the Imihigo process allows for greater
citizen participation and accountability in local development plans.
However, opportunities to participate in the development, monitoring and evaluation of Imihigos often differ for
men and women – with women facing manifold barriers to participate in communal decision-making processes.
As a result, local development plans may fail to address the different needs, priorities and aspirations of men
and women and may reinforce existing inequalities and unequal power relations. With the support of DGG
technical assistance, IPC therefore decided that gender equality should be a major focus in all the steps of the
Citizen-Centred Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation Process project. By doing so, they recognized that
promoting gender equality is essential to secure the success and the quality of the project overall.
The citizen-centred Imihigo process developed by IPC consists of six steps. For every step, IPC considered how it
can be made gender-sensitive (and inclusive). As a step zero, IPC conducted a gender audit, to find out more
about the attitudes towards gender roles in the community. This gender audit represented the baseline from
which gender mainstreaming activities were designed and implemented. In order to make the approach
replicable for other districts a table was drawn up containing all the steps and the necessary measures that were
taken to make it gender-sensitive.


Short-term: More women participated actively in the public discussions. They brought in new ideas and/or
ensure greater priority was given to specific issues/concerns. At least 80% of citizen’s priorities were taken into
account in the Imihgo of Nyamagabe district in 2016. It changed women’s perception of how their voices are
valued and heard. Women felt empowered and gained more self-confidence by having their opinion valued by
the community in the Imihigo process. Men who were supportive of women’s participation were explicitly
commended for their behaviour.

Medium-term: The Rwandan Gender Monitoring Office and UN Women found that Nyamagaba district scored
significantly better on gender sensitivity than other districts. The Imihigo document includes both male and
female priorities and is thus more responsive to all citizens. CSO and local government staff have been trained
on issues of gender equality and their activities are more inclusive for women and men. There are more women
in leadership roles at district level. Women’s participation in the Imihigo process has encouraged them to
participate actively in other decision making for a, such as water committees. IPC encouraged women to take on
leadership positions, form saving and loan groups to improve their economic status.

Long-term: Societal norms concerning participation of women in decision-making processes are changing.
Decision-making processes are designed in a gender-sensitive way. Women see themselves and are seen by
others as essential contributors to decision-making on every level, in the family, the community and the country.
This contributes to a more sustainable development and thus pushes Rwanda further towards reaching the
Sustainable Development Goals.

Gender as a quality feature of our work

After pioneering the citizen-centred Imihigo process in Nyamagabe, GIZ supported IPC to extend it to two more
districts in 2016. GIZ also supported IPC to organise annual workshops for district authorities on how to analyse
their Imihigos on gender sensitivity. These workshops were praised by district authorities as extremely helpful
and strengthened their commitment to gender mainstreaming.
Praise also came from representatives of the Gender Monitoring Office of the Rwandan Government and UN
Women, after they visited Nyamagabe to assess the gender sensitivity of the Imihigo planning and
accountability process. UN Women has recognized and cited Nyamagabe district as a best practice for gender
sensitive planning and budgeting.

Most importantly, the Rwandan Ministry for Economy and Finance (MINECOFIN)has included the gendersensitive citizen-oriented Imihigo approach in their recommendations for local planning and budgeting
processes. The approach will be spread throughout Rwanda through government institutions such as MINALOC,
the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) and the Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA). This
will ensure that other districts can easily follow Nyamagabe’s example and benefit from the experience there. In
2017, five more districts have started to implement the same approach – three with support by GIZ and two
with support of the World Bank.

Gender and Results-Based Monitoring

IPC and the local government conducted a gender audit to know more about the opinions in the community on
gender roles, the role of women in decision-making and the attitude towards women in official authority
structures. The audit served as a baseline and thoroughly informed the design of the intervention making sure it
fit the local context.
IPC recognised and appreciated the value of making the Imihigo process gender-sensitive. It strengthened their
approach and made it more inclusive of all citizens. What became evident from the experience of this gender
mainstreaming intervention was that the partners of GIZ’s DGG Programme require further capacity
development on gender-sensitive results based monitoring. As a first step, GIZ delivered a technical workshop on how to collect, analyse and use sex-disaggregated data to inform gender mainstreaming and its monitoring
and evaluation. This workshop will contribute to the partner’s capacity to design gender-transformative
programmes and promote gender equality in the long-term.
The process of gender mainstreaming in the Imihigo process was documented in a report by the One
Mainstreaming team of GIZ and in a shorter and vivid “How to” document which provides all the necessary steps
to replicate the approach. This document shall be distributed among stakeholders working on citizen
participation thus promoting the spread of gender mainstreaming in local governance processes throughout the
whole country.


Everything related to the success of mainstreaming gender equality in the Citizen-Centred Planning and
Monitoring and Evaluation Process, including informational awareness, the planning process and implementing
of activities, was channelled through the umbrella organization IPC. This ensured that work was not duplicated,
that citizens did not become overburdened by repeating or redundant activities and that all partners had the
same understanding of gender equality and the activities needed to bring it about. CSOs that had most expertise
on gender issues organised trainings for other CSO and local government staff. This way, the knowledge on
gender equality issues was effectively spread and increased within the IPC network. It also ensured that all
partners were committed to the objective of ensuring gender equality in the process.
Owing to the cooperation between CSOs and local government, planning has become more inclusive for
different groups (women, people with disabilities, youth, etc.), the implementation of local plans has become
smoother, the role of CSOs and citizens in the whole process became more pronounced, and ownership of
results by citizens are also expected to have increased. In addition to that, the role of CSOs in national
development became more visible and recognised by state actors.

Annonciata MUKARUGABIRO is an opinion leader and a representative of people living
with HIV in her village. Before participating in Imihigo meetings, she was already active in
conflict in resolution in the community. However, she never engaged with government
authorities. Annonciata explained: “Before participating in the meetings, I felt that my
views and opinions were of no concern to the community… I thought that women were
not supposed to speak publicly. But, after participating, I observed that expressing my
opinions is good. I was astonished by the way my priorities were considered by men. It
empowered me and made me increase my skills and also my self-confidence.”

Augustin NTAWUHIGIMANA is the pastor of the local Kegeme Dioses church in
Nyamagabe. As a member of IPC, the church has been involved in the citizen-centred
mechanism since 2015. They raise awareness of citizens and local authorities for the
importance of citizen involvement and organize public dialogues between local
authorities and villagers. Augustin is very proud of what has been accomplished in terms
of gender equality: “Women are now active. You can see them in meetings giving
speeches and sharing their ideas. But also, they are now attending other meetings and
initiatives and giving their opinion. I am proud that IPC was the first to be involved in such
a participatory system in Nyamagabe.”