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Rwanda: Strengthening the capacity of the civil society and the media to challenge discrimination against Historically Marginalized Peoples (HMPs)

Duration: June 2018 – June 2021

Country: Rwanda

Communities: Various

What was this programme about?

This project aimed at contributing to the elimination of discrimination against HMPs in Rwanda by empowering civil society organizations (CSOs), human rights defenders (HRDs) and media so that they are able to effectively defend and promote their human rights. The specific objective is to strengthen the capacity of CSOs, HRDs and media to effectively challenge discrimination and advocate for greater respect and promotion of the rights of Historically Marginalised Peoples (HMPs). The action sought to enhance the ability of CSOs and activists to effectively advocate for discriminated HMPs’ effective inclusion in Rwandan society, as well as to engage with the media to promote more responsible coverage of discrimination issues.

Why did we deliver this programme?

HMPs have suffered decades of sustained discrimination, intermittent violence and evictions, leading them to experience long-term marginalisation and exclusion from all public spheres. The action proactively equipped HMP-led CSOs with knowledge and skills to engage government key authorities on respect and implementation of international human rights instruments and on the promotion of anti-discrimination practices and policies.

Likewise, the trained paralegals supported these CSOs to provide legal guidance to highly vulnerable and discriminated groups. In addition to capacity building trainings and advocacy exercises, CSOs and HRDs strengthened their ability to cause positive change through knowledge and experience sharing meetings that brought together rights activists and representatives of HMP communities and strengthen community platforms and fora on discriminatory issues faced by HMPs. By empowering marginalised minorities to make their voices and rights heard and by facilitating engagement with and training of media to ensure HMPs communities are covered responsibly, the action aimed to protect and defend their rights on a wider spectrum to raise awareness and sensitise the wider population. The action also supported minority women through promoting their participation in all activities, and highlighting intersectional discrimination experienced by women in media work and advocacy.

What were we aiming to achieve?

  • Strengthened capacities of various Civil Societies and Human Rights Defenders to engage with the State officials for the respect and promotion of HMPs rights and adherence to regional and international human rights instruments.
  • Increased capacities of Paralegals from the HMPs communities on recording and reporting human rights violations in their communities.
  • Strengthened capacities of Journalists to raise awareness on discrimination perpetrated against HMPs.
  • Increase the awareness of HMPs on their rights and on how to engage relevant stakeholders to address gaps & rights breaches.
  • Increased awareness of various decision makers (at local and national levels on HMPs’ specific concerns and international bodies are more aware of such concerns and push the government to address them.

Who were our partners?

Our partners were:

  • African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization (AIMPO)
  • Women’s Organization for Promoting Unity (WOPU)

What were the targeted groups?

This programme’s targeted groups were:

  • Rwandan civil society organizations and human rights defenders
  • Paralegals
  • Media houses
  • Rwandan decision makers
  • HMP community members
  • International bodies such as the UNHRC

Who funded this programme?

This programme was funded by the European Union.

What did the external evaluation say?

In July 2021, MRG commissioned an external evaluation which reviewed all the project records but was also able to carry out a wide range of interviews and one focus group discussion with due respect for measures in place to avoid spreading Covid-19.

The evaluation was very positive about the project, welcoming the need for the work in the Rwandan context, the active role of partners and the involvement of community members throughout. The evaluators praised MRG and its partners for having managed to deliver a strong suite of activities despite the pandemic, including an event attended by 60 individuals including government institutions, EU delegation, CSOs, HRDs, media houses, HMP representatives and other key stakeholders. Training events for activists, journalists and paralegals were all carried out and positively evaluated.

‘Trainings have been a source of connection, information sharing and networking opportunities to advocate for HMPs. The training and support to paralegals is a promising initiative to empower HMPs so that they can raise their voice and claim their rights when violated.’ ‘Through the training, I discovered new things about HMPs and learned how HMPs need a special advocacy. I did a personal visit in Kamonyi district to see the living conditions of HMPs, advocated for them by reintegrating some children in collaboration with local leaders including sector and cell levels. Through this advocacy effort, some HMP children got school materials from Crimson Academy and reintegrated [into] the school’, said a community activist in Kamonyi. Radio and TV talk shows were run after the training of journalists. One article entitled ‘Historically marginalized people in Rwanda require a particular attention’ was awarded by Rwanda Governance Board in 2019 as the Best Feature/Magazine of the year as part of Development Journalism Awards.  Evaluators also commented positively on the flexibility of both the implementing team and the donor. A portion of the funding was redesignated to provide urgently needed food to the poorest families who were solely reliant on casual labour for their income. Casual labour was impossible during Covid-19-related lockdowns. Other new activities were performed in replacement of those that could not be carried because of Covid-19: establishment of HMPs youth employment database (AIMPO) advocacy on registration of new born babies (WOPU), training staff on project elaboration and follow-up (AIMPO) and advocacy on registration of new born babies (WOPU).

MRG and partners received reports of HMP households being ‘skipped’ when aid was distributed. Meanwhile, being heavily reliant on casual labour for income, HMPs were, on average, worse affected than many others by the restrictions on movement and trade. It is also important to say that delivering aid in this way and publicizing it was in itself symbolic of what the authorities needed to also be doing and was intended to model inclusion/shame any actors who discriminated in aid dissemination against HMP HHs.

The evaluation states: ‘As reported through the key informant interviews, one FGD and our field learning visit, the project interventions led to commendable positive changes in targeted districts and beyond’.

‘Through EU funded project, not only our turnover has increased but also our capacity of managing the project has improved. Thanks to MRG team and EU for trusting us to carry out the project activities.’

Staff member from a partner organization

HMPs with disabilities that got a chance to take part in the training increased their knowledge and self-esteem to fight for their rights. ‘As HMP, I am currently part of youth volunteers within Covid-19 pandemic. I am ensuring that people with disability receive food items during the distribution in our community.  I take my disability as an opportunity to voice for our concerns and I managed to talk to local leaders so that I am assigned specific tasks that are aligned to my disability, said a respondent.

‘HMPs are human beings like others. They deserve respect and specific assistance based on their needs for tailored development projects. School feeding programmes can help in retaining HMPs children in schools since their families are facing poverty and food insecurity.’

Respondent from a CSO

The evaluation also reported that some unintended positive effects were recorded as a result of project interventions. In Burera, WOPU managed to mobilise resources and provide water tanks and sanitary materials to HMP families.  Also, in some community awareness meetings, HMPs participated together with their non-HMP neighbours. This integrated community meeting was highly appreciated by the respondents since it contributed to changing negative perceptions and attitudes of some community members about HMPs.

‘We noted that non-HMP community members have also attended the awareness meetings on the rights of HMPs. This was a good opportunity to ensure that HMPs and non-HMPs develop good relationships as Rwandans and improve their level of knowledge about human rights.’



The evaluation found that although a number of the project outcomes and results are sustainable, they are insufficient to completely solve the problems of entrenched discrimination and poverty affecting HMP communities entirely. Considering the socio-economic conditions (lack of land, education barriers, lack of health insurance, discrimination and exclusion, lack of self-esteem and self-confidence, extreme poverty, lack of formal employment, Sexual Gender-Based Violence, etc.) that are hindering the full enjoyment of HMP rights, a lot has to be done to ensure the sustainability of the project interventions. Therefore, combined continuing efforts of government, CSOs, development organisations and the private sector are highly recommended.

The evaluation reflected two factors that affected implementation of some project activities.  Beyond control: travel restrictions, lockdowns, gatherings/meeting bans meant that advocacy activities, field monitoring and supervision were not performed as initially planned, and within control: insufficient use of social media and communication channels to make the project activities more visible and raise the voice of HMPs.

Download the evaluation

Batwa woman in Cyamudongo, Rwanda, March 2010. Credit: Eric Lafforgue.

This content represents the views of Minority Rights Group only and is its sole responsibility. The European Union does not accept any responsibility for the use that may be made of the information it contains.