Main Article Content
In the framework of the community participation in conservation in Rwanda, a women handcraft cooperative was established in 2011 in the surrounding of Nyungwe National Park in Kitabi sector and Nyamagabe District. It aimed to empower economically and socially wives of former hunters who were themselves relying on natural resources and involved in harvesting different resources in park for making handcraft products. The empowerment was intended to reduce the reliance to natural resources and to contribute to the protection of the park. The objective of the study was to investigate and examine women’s experiences about their empowerment through environmental justice, in terms of distributive and procedural justice and challenges faced by women. In doing so, participants were purposively selected in women handicraft cooperative and in administration bodies. With regards to data collection and analysis, semi-structured interviews and content analysis were used. The findings showed that women are socially and economically empowered. In terms of economic empowerment, access to financial loans, savings, employment and income generating projects are the major indicators of the empowerment. Improved capacity building and family relations are major concerns of social handcraft cooperative members. Regarding the participation of women in decision-making process, the findings are controversial. However, it is still limited because of the dominance of top-down approach that does not consider enough women’s voices and suggestions in decision making. Cooperative women members perceive and consider the process of communication and decision-making as passive because they are almost absent in the monitoring and evaluation processes. The participation of the community members including women only appears through meetings with or without elected representatives. The process of women empowerment is still limited by some challenges such as crop raiding, complicated and slow compensation process, high interest rate and slow process of loan and inadequate communication. The partnership approach is then recommended so as to consider women’s needs and voices in the implementation of natural resources conservation policies.