Home Institution

University of Notre Dame

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

Rwanda: Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding


In the months following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a disproportionate number of Rwandan women were left without husbands, homes, family, or property. These losses required women to take on cultural responsibilities hitherto reserved for men. One roadblock to assuming these responsibilities was the legal and cultural right of property ownership reserved exclusively for men. Then in 1999, the Rwandan government enacted legislation which allowed women and girls the rights to family property -- Law/nº 22/99 of 12/11/1999 on Matrimonial Regimes, Liberalities, and Successions. On paper, this Rwandan policy seemed like a step toward gender equality, a watershed moment in the larger Rwandan history of women’s empowerment. However, claiming family property has marked the beginning of a series of hurdles and conflicts for some. The law has served as a basis of conflict among family members, in particular men who have failed to recognize that property ownership is now a Rwandan woman’s right. The intent of this study, therefore, is twofold. First, this study will attempt to gather evidence to determine the ways in which the 1999 law impacted the Rwandan cultural beliefs regarding women’s ownership of family property. Second, this study will examine Rwandan perceptions on what extent and in what forms the execution of this law affected intra-family relationships between the female member who have claimed family property and the male members of the same family. A sample of five genocide mother widows living in Kimironko Village were identified, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with each. In addition, a total of eleven civil society actors and government employees were interviewed to gauge local perceptions. The research project took place in the month of November, 2016. Qualitative data was analyzed, unintended consequences of the law identified, and policy implications discussed.


African Studies | Family Law | Family, Life Course, and Society | Law and Gender | Property Law and Real Estate


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