Key findings

  • Socio-economic disadvantages, notably in relation to access to land, produce vulnerabilities. The depth and range of HMP poverty affects their participation in community activities, which creates new vulnerabilities, particularly in relation to the law, violence, access to the benefits of community participation, their ability to make their voice heard, and their ability to seek redress.
  • Lack of access to land is identified as a key point in maintaining HMP disadvantage. It is a cause of regular food insecurity and of reliance on day labouring. As such, it functions as a corrosive disadvantage, seen as laying at the heart of HMP marginalisation. Access to land is also identified as a necessary factor in achieving empowerment and appears to function as a marker of inclusion. Access to land is thus also psychologically significant.
  • Access to decent housing was the second most cited concern after access to land, and has a strong relationship to feelings of well-being and dignity.
  • HMPs feel a strong sense of unfairness. This is not necessarily connected to their membership in the HMP community but appears to relate to poverty and to a disconnect from power (decision-making structures). There is a clear lack of understanding among HMPs as to how and why distributive decisions are taken and this appears to motivate the feelings of unfairness.
  • Education is seen by HMPs as centrally important in enabling their children to escape poverty. The biggest barrier to children doing well at school is hunger. Access to uniforms and books also causes widespread problems.
  • Progress is strongly seen by HMPs as necessary and encompasses both socio-economic progress towards integration, particularly at the individual (rather than community) level, and the need for more material goods. Progress is negatively associated with HMP identity – a feeling reinforced by many instances of discrimination and occasional abuse – and positively associated with identity as Rwandan.
  • Attachment to HMP identity varies widely across the community. All interviewees identified as members of the community, with most preferring the designation ‘Twa’; yet all but one interviewee also felt strongly or very strongly Rwandan. Indigenous identity appears to be largely irrelevant and there was call for it only among a small handful of individuals.
  • Community is very important for individuals, both morally and materially; there is a strong emphasis on sharing even what little they have. However, community is not necessarily an HMP community but can also be a mixed community of neighbours or religiously based.

Recommendations

The government should continue investing in its pro-poor programming, in particular the Girinka programme and access to free health insurance for the very poorest. Our research suggests that the vast majority of those who need it have access to free health insurance and many are beneficiaries of other programmes too. The programmes work.

 

Access to land and decent housing should be the focus of government efforts towards alleviating HMP marginalisation in the immediate future. Where land distribution is not possible, efforts should be made to find solutions that guarantee food security and allow individuals to work for themselves. This could be achieved by supporting small businesses and by providing small business training. Working for themselves will empower HMPs and allow them to take greater control over their own lives.

 

In order to ensure children can participate in school and can thrive, a nation-wide school feeding programme is necessary for children from the poorest backgrounds (categories 1 & 2). Ideally, this would involve a full meal, preferably at the beginning of the school day, as this has been shown to have the best results on pupil concentration. As an intermediary step, free school milk should be offered to all pupils to ensure that all children receive the basics of a healthy diet. Attention should also be paid to ensuring that all children who need it have free access to school uniforms, notebooks and pens.

 

Local authorities need to communicate more effectively with HMP community members and explain their decisions to them. The poor should be understood as participants in decision-making rather than purely as beneficiaries of government programmes. This is easily said and very difficult to achieve; however, real inclusion in society also means feeling included and this cannot happen in the absence of participation in decision-making. Strategic actors, such as donors, NGOs and churches, should provide assistance to local authorities in developing a more participatory relationship with all their constituents.

 

The shared Rwandan identity (one-Rwanda) agenda appears to be successful in assuring this marginalised community of their place in the broader society, and it is important that it continues. However, in order to address the negative attitude of many towards HMPs, and to support the elements of HMP culture that community members fear are dying out (singing, dancing etc), recognition of certain aspects of HMP culture as a positive contribution to Rwanda society would have large benefits and should not necessarily be understood as undermining pursuit of national unity. HMPs feel strongly Rwandan already and all citizens would benefit from the contribution that HMPs can make to national culture.

© 2017 Inclusive Development Rwanda Project