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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

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

Andersson, Karolin; Pettersson, Katarina; Bergman Lodin, Johanna


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.


Agriculture policy; Gender equality; Rwanda; Policy analysis; WPR approach; Feminist political ecology

Published in

Agriculture and Human Values
2022, volume: 39, number: 4, pages: 1245-1261

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG5 Gender equality
SDG10 Reduce inequality within and among countries
SDG16 Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

UKÄ Subject classification

Gender Studies

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