In Rwanda, 45% of people live below the poverty line and more than 80% live on less than £2 a day. It is a youthful population, with about 79% aged under 35, and 40% younger than 14. About three quarters of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, whilst nearly a quarter live in extreme poverty, and many more struggle with food insecurity and malnutrition.

Many households are headed by women, children, and/or people with disabilities, who bear the burden of poverty. Although Rwanda has the highest proportion of female MPs in the world (62%), gender equity for ordinary women in rural areas is still a long way off. People with disabilities, who constitute about 5% of the population, are often not considered in decision making and have poor access to services, particularly education and social protection.

But change is happening fast. In order to achieve its Vision 2020, Rwanda has made rapid strides in its Economic Development and Poverty Eradication Strategies (EDPRS) – to which VSO made significant contributions (including making disability a key theme).

VSO believes that in order to transform Rwandan development, we must:

  • Ensure access to quality basic education (early years and primary) for ALL children

  • Improve access to services and participation in decision making for the most marginalised social groups (e.g. people with disabilities)

  • Enhance the skills and employability of Rwandan youth in an inclusive environment  

  • Strategically promote national volunteering to allow young Rwandans to make career choices through volunteering

VSO has worked in Rwanda since 1998. Our programmes include education, social inclusion and governance (with a disability focus) and livelihoods and youth. Gender and national volunteering are cross-cutting issues for all our work.


VSO Rwanda supports the priorities of the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) to improve the quality of basic education. The government has successfully increased the number of children attending primary school to about 95%. However, enrolment in pre-school education is still very low, and teacher training at this level is poor.

We recruit education professionals with backgrounds in primary school teaching and learner-centred teaching practices, education management and leadership, to support our work in teacher training, head teacher mentoring, teaching resource development and contributing to national policy dialogue.

Social inclusion and governance

One of the impacts of the 1994 genocide was an increased number of people with a range of disabilities, including physical disabilities, visual and hearing impairments and mental health trauma. There is real political and social will to realise the rights of people with disabilities, but resources and technical capacity remain a challenge.

Through VSO Rwanda’s social inclusion and governance programme, we aim to:

  • Ensure disability is mainstreamed into development processes at national and local levels

  • Build the capacity of civil society representatives of people with disabilities to support their members in decision making processes

  • Improve quality of and access to services for people with disabilities

  • VSO recruits volunteers with skills in advocacy, organisational development, inclusive education and special needs education, and in specialist service areas including sign language, audiology and speech therapy.

Livelihoods and youth

VSO Rwanda aims to contribute to improving agricultural productivity and income diversification at household level, primarily in rural areas. In doing so, we will focus on promoting youth livelihoods, particularly of people with disabilities and women across some of the poorest regions of the country.

Our current programme spread is modest. We are targeting cooperatives to pilot and learn from different locally-agreed income generation activities. We have an ambitious strategy to increase our reach and maximise links with our other programme areas.

National volunteering, gender and climate change

VSO believes in the value of volunteering to meet development goals. This is particularly pertinent given Rwanda’s strong volunteering culture. We aim to improve the work-readiness of young Rwandans graduating from schools through national volunteering and work experience programmes. We also support the government’s technical and vocational training initiatives to improve youth employability.

Finally, gender analysis and equity are key pillars of our education, disability, governance and livelihoods programmes.

Contact us

Get in touch with VSO Rwanda at: PO Box 4599, Kigali, Rwanda

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