Spark’s impact on women’s empowerment and participation

On 8 March 2024 at 01:01

Women face inferior job and income opportunities across the globe compared to men. In Rwanda, disadvantages in education, skills development, and opportunity previously limited the ability of women to participate in the labor market and to access higher quality, more productive jobs.

Yet, women represent over 51% of the population and play a crucial role in the development of society at all levels.

In 2021, Spark Microgrants, in partnership with the Government of Rwanda and with the support of the World Bank, launched the Advancing Citizen Engagement (ACE) project.

The ACE project aims to improve the lives of those living in extreme poverty, through the Facilitated Collective Action Process (FCAP). The project strengthens participatory planning and citizen engagement in government processes, by training local Government officials on FCAP tools.

It also supports villages to lead their development and increase citizen capacity, self-reliance, confidence, financial literacy, and project management, and develop a framework for a national-scale roll-out of FCAP - the National Framework for Participatory Village Planning, by working with the central government policy-makers.

With the FCAP meeting, women’s attendance and participation in village meetings have increased.

In the 249 communities benefiting from the ACE project, women attend meetings at 35%, and their participation in the meetings at 61%. Women participate in engaging discussions ask questions and guide the conversation with men to make their voices heard and their perspectives and ideas understood.

Mrs. Evans Niyitegeka living in Busoro Village, Gishamvu Sector-Huye District, was given a pig, but after several attempts, she found that it wasn’t mating while other people’s pigs were. When she realized there was a problem, she worked with the village committee to assist her in selling it so that she might find another pig to support her growth.

“The committee heard my problem as some other members were experiencing similar difficulties. The pig was sold and replaced with the one that was able to produce. Today I am pleased that I am making a profit: I care for my pig, and now I have fertilizer to use in my fields and I produce enough agricultural products,” Niyitegeka said.

“You can even see me now” she added, “I am healthy because I eat well and enough. when I plant crops like potatoes and vegetables, they grow and produce good yields. I previously owned a cow at home but gave it to my newlywed son and told him he could use the cow dung as manure instead of me”.

Evans mentioned that when she learned about the Spark Microgrants project she was fortunate to receive a pig because she was regularly attending the FCAP meetings. She currently grows on compost, and her family does not go hungry anymore.

“I applaud our government for seriously considering development initiatives and bringing them to the population. I’m also grateful to Spark since it does not discriminate against anyone based on their socioeconomic status; even those who previously did not receive assistance now do”, she concluded.

Nyiramahano Laurence, an elderly woman (64) living in Ruhanga cell, Busengo Sector, Gakenke district, said she can’t miss FCAP meetings. She said that women and men complement each other and it is good that they share thoughts and ideas during the meetings.

“During the FCAP meetings, everyone is allowed to share their thoughts regardless of their gender or age. In the early years, it was difficult for women to speak up in public as those who did were considered stubborn and disrespectful. But after electing Kagame, our President, women were empowered”.

Women participate in engaging discussions ask questions and guide the conversation with men to make their voices heard and their perspectives and ideas understood.
Some women in Gashoro Community-Rwerere Sector are also among beneficiaries.
A woman oversees livestock distribution in Kigoma sector, Huye District.
The ACE project is inclusive and takes into account all categories of villagers, including elderly and persons with disabilities. Laurence looks after her cow in Rurangara village, Gakenke District.
Women are primary drivers of FCAP meetings.