Yes They Can: Genocide, Political Participation, and Female Empowerment


We study how genocide can lead to female empowerment, using data from Rwanda. We exploit exogenous variation in transport costs that affected the number of militiamen arriving in each village. We find that in high-violence villages, women are healthier, better educated, wealthier, hold more decision-making power, are less likely to accept and experience domestic violence, work in better jobs, and enjoy more sexual and financial autonomy. In terms of mechanisms, gender imbalances –generated by the militias targeting men –caused a power vacuum that women filled as household heads and local politicians. In office, they provide more public goods. Finally, it seems that younger women are carrying these changes and that gender norms changed. To corroborate the importance of the initial gender imbalance, we exploit exogenous variation in RTLM radio reception. Radio-induced violence targeted women. Given the male surplus, we find negative or no effects on female outcomes.

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