CARE has implemented Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to support women’s economic empowerment in Rwanda for many years. However, an assessment found that many women were not fully benefiting from the program due to household gender inequalities. In some cases, men controlled the functioning of the VSLA groups even without membership. In others, women VSLA members suffered backlash – sometimes violent – from their husbands as they were seen to be challenging gender norms by engaging in income-generating activities outside the home.
Indashyikirwa used CARE Rwanda’s VSLAs to recruit participants. There were four key components:
- Intensive participatory training with couples (couples’ curriculum)
- Community-based activism led by individuals who had completed the couples’ curriculum and received additional training
- Direct support to survivors of intimate partner violence through women’s safe spaces
- Training and engagement of opinion leaders
The program was implemented in 14 sectors across seven districts in the eastern, northern and western provinces of Rwanda, in predominantly rural, dispersed communities.
The Indashyikirwa couples’ curriculum had dramatic effects: