Window dressing inequalities and constructing women farmers as problematic—gender in Rwanda’s agriculture policy

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Springer Nature
Rwanda is often depicted as a success story by policy makers when it comes to issues of gender. In this paper, we show how the problem of gendered inequality in agriculture nevertheless is both marginalized and instrumentalized in Rwanda’s agriculture policy. Our in-depth analysis of 12 national policies is informed by Bacchi’s What’s the problem represented to be? approach. It attests that gendered inequality is largely left unproblematized as well as reduced to a problem of women’s low agricultural productivity. The policy focuses on framing the symptoms and effects of gendered inequality and turns gender mainstreaming into an instrument for national economic growth. We argue that by insufficiently addressing the socio-political underlying causes of gendered inequality, Rwanda’s agriculture policy risks reproducing and exacerbating inequalities by reinforcing dominant gender relations and constructing women farmers as problematic and men as normative farmers. We call for the policy to approach gendered inequality in alternative ways. Drawing on perspectives in feminist political ecology, we discuss how such alternatives could allow policy to more profoundly challenge underlying structural constraints such as unequal gender relations of power, gender norms, and gender divisions of work. This would shift policy’s problematizing lens from economic growth to social justice, and from women’s shortcomings and disadvantages in agriculture to the practices and relations that perpetuate inequality. In the long term, this could lead to transformed gender norms and power relations, and a more just and equal future beyond what the dominant agricultural development discourse currently permits.
© The Author(s) 2022. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Version of Scholarly Record of this Article is published in Agriculture and Human Values, 2022, available online at: . Keywords: agriculture policy; gender equality; Rwanda; Africa; policy analysis; WPR approach; feminist political ecology.
Andersson, K., Pettersson, K. & Lodin, J.B. Window dressing inequalities and constructing women farmers as problematic—gender in Rwanda’s agriculture policy. Agric Hum Values 39, 1245–1261 (2022).