‘I can do women’s work’: reflections on engaging men as allies in women’s economic empowerment in Rwanda

The benefits of women’s economic empowerment are well-known and documented in the development literature. Few studies and interventions, however, have explored how men react or can be engaged to enhance such interventions. This article presents an evaluation of a pilot project in Rwanda in collaboration with CARE Rwanda’s Village Savings and Loan (VSL) programme that deliberately engaged men as partners of women beneficiaries of the micro-credit programme. Preliminary results affirm the importance of engaging men in a deliberate questioning of gender norms and power dynamics, so that they can embrace better co-operation and sharing of activities at the household level; and that a ‘do-no-harm’ approach to women’s economic empowerment should involve activities to engage men at the community level in questioning and ending gender-based violence – building on those interventions that have shown evidence of changes in men’s attitudes and behaviours related to gender-based violence.