We have worked in this East African country since 1994. In Rwanda we currently support some 252,100 children and young people in 10 projects. Our projects are primarily in the Western and Eastern provinces (17 out of 30 districts) and are run by local partners.


Poverty despite economic growth

During the genocide in 1994, nearly one million people were murdered. Many Rwandans are still deeply traumatised by these events. Widows and orphans in particular often live in abject poverty. The incidences of new HIV infections have dropped but still remain at nearly three percent.

In our project areas we encourage the poorest women in the region to join forces and establish self-help groups. These groups are highly successful in lifting families out of poverty and reconciling former enemies. Victims and relatives of the perpetrators of the genocide collectively resolve problems, jointly save money and, in turn, grant loans. The families’ improved economic situations particularly benefits the children and helps to gradually overcome the trauma of the country's genocidal past.

The challenges

A boy and a girl sitting in front of a house entrance with a sad face. (Source: Karl Pfahler)
Thousands of children live without parents in "children's households".

Nearly 20 years after the genocide, many survivors are still suffering from these dramatic events. The prisons are overcrowded and courts are delayed in addressing the legal consequences of the genocide.

The economy grew by nearly eight percent in 2012. The service sector is booming. Rwanda is striving to become a middle-income country and the government is making great efforts on a number of fronts, particularly in attracting foreign investors to the country. However, the poorest of the poor are not benefiting from this progress. Sixty-three percent of Rwandans are living below the poverty line. The population is growing by nearly three percent annually. There are too many people and not enough land to feed everyone. Recurrent droughts and heavy rainfalls often destroy harvests. The situation is aggravated by the poor quality of crops and farmland parcels that are too small.

Approximately 700,000 children have lost their parents. Many of them live in "children's households", where the older siblings look after the younger ones. One in three children has to work. The quality of primary school instruction tends to be poor. Children and young people far too rarely have access to preschool, secondary school education, and vocational training.

One of the major problems is sexual violence against girls. Instead of bringing the perpetrators to justice and supporting the victims, society turns a blind eye to this problem.

  • Our work in the country

    Our projects aim to ensure that children and young people grow up under decent living conditions and in a peaceful environment. The projects enable families to liberate themselves from poverty and overcome the deep divisions between the Hutus and Tutsis in the wake of the genocide.

    The self-help groups that are established in our project areas proved to be an effective tool in sustainably combating poverty. By collectively saving money and granting each other loans, the women improve their families’ economic situation, which particularly benefits the children. In training courses they learn new methods of organic farming and achieving better harvests. Their children regularly eat healthy food and thrive. Working hand-in-hand with other women, members of the group experience solidarity. They are supporting each other and develop an unprecedented sense of self-confidence. The groups make a significant contribution towards coming to terms with traumatic experiences and reconciling differences in the wake of the genocide. Within the safety of the group, the women manage to speak about the past, often for the first time.

  • Key figures on Rwanda

    • 12.3 million people live in Rwanda
    • 42 % of all Rwandans are under the age of 15
    • The average life expectancy in Rwanda is 59 years
    • 63 % of the population lives below the poverty line*
    • 29 % of all Rwandans aged 15 and over are illiterate
    • 16 % of all boys and girls attend a secondary school
    • 29 % of all children have to work*

     Sources: World Factbook, *United Nations

Rwanda: Self-help groups

Rwanda: Self-help groups

Many Rwandans are still deeply traumatised by the genocide. In particular Widows and AIDS orphans tend to live in abject poverty. Self-help groups improve their situation.

Learn more
How we work

How we work

Learn more about how we realize children’s rights.

Learn more
An overview of our projects and countries

An overview of our projects and countries

We are currently supporting almost 1.9 million children in 33 countries. Click here to read selected project descriptions.

Learn more