Clean Water and Proper Sanitation in BurundiBurundi is a small, land-locked country in Africa that is consistently listed as one of the top ten poorest countries in the world. Despite the country’s abundance of natural water resources, such as Lake Tanganyika and the Nile River, there is still a struggle to find clean water and proper sanitation in Burundi. Overpopulation, political unrest and slow economic development have prevented Burundians from accessing basic necessities, such as clean water. As of 2016, there is a very high risk of contracting water-borne diseases, which contributes to high mortality rates.

Small-scale Solutions

In 2017, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) partnered with REGIDESO, Burundi’s water company. This was to supply 56,000 Burundians with clean and easily-accessible drinking water. Six spring-fed tap stands, sourced from the 32 surrounding natural springs, and a water tower has improved water quality. Further, they have reduced the risk of contracting waterborne diseases. It is one such effort from international organizations partnering with Burundi to help over 64 percent of residents. This is how many residents live below the poverty line. Many poor Burundians have difficulty finding clean water, and the ICRC’s water project is one step to alleviating the side effects of poverty.

Other Initiatives

Also addressing the issue of the lack of clean water and proper sanitation in Burundi are organizations and initiatives. The country relies heavily on international nonprofits and United Nations organizations in receiving aid for the water crisis in Burundi, such as through the construction of wells. UNICEF partnered with Beyonce’s charity, BeyGOOD, to solve the ongoing water crisis in Burundi. As of 2018, the partnership has resulted in more than 35 wells. Furthermore, they are set to build 80 more in the future.

Caryl Stern, President and CEO of UNICEF USA notes:

“Addressing the global water crisis is one of the defining challenges of our time, and the children of Burundi are among the most vulnerable.”

Stern referred to the main cause of death of children under the age of five to be waterborne diseases such as schistosomiasis. Many Burundians drink from unsafe sources of water. The undeveloped health care industry makes matters worse, as those with diseases are not treated properly.

In 2019, UNICEF and its partners began a strategic plan to combat the lack of clean water. Additionally, the organization aims to provide food, proper health care, child protection services and education to more than half a million Burundians. They plan to provide clean water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene to 200,000 residents this year. The humanitarian strategy requires $10 million to alleviate the water crisis in Burundi. In 2018, over 47,000 Burundians were provided water for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

Future Initiatives

The 2015 protests involving President Pierre Nkurunziza forming a military coup has resulted in Burundians across the country still being affected. As a result, more than 100,000 Burundians have fled the country. These protests are ongoing and affect the economy. As a result, the government shut down all the universities, the telephone lines and the Internet. Despite the continued protests, UNICEF, the ICRC and various nonprofits are the foundation to future success in providing access to clean water and proper sanitation in Burundi.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty in BurundiBurundi is a small country in Central-East Africa with a poverty rate of over 60 percent. It’s difficult for many Burundians to access basic necessities, such as clean water and health care. This is due to so many people in the country living on less than two dollars a day. There are many ways to reduce poverty in a developing country. The following describes four essential areas to improve in order to reduce poverty in Burundi.

Health Care

As of 2016, the degree of contracting an infectious disease in Burundi is very high. Food or waterborne diseases are common. For example, typhoid fever and hepatitis A. Health care spending in 2016, as a percentage of GDP, was 6.19 percent. The U.S., on the other hand, spent 17.07 percent of GDP on health care. Investment in the health care industry would only help reduce poverty in Burundi. Therefore, it would create jobs and improve the livelihood of Burundians.

The functionality of a society relies on good health. So, this is why investing in the health care industry spurs development. A disease, such as malaria, holds back an individual from performing at work. With more than 80 percent of the population working in the agriculture industry, jobs which require manual labor, it’s difficult to work under sickness. About 81.5 percent of patients have to go into debt or sell a portion of their crops, land or livestock to pay for basic health care needs.


Burundi spent 4.3 percent of GDP on education in 2017. The country is ranked 95 out of 175 nations for government expenditure on education. Investing in education can help increase profits in agriculture, which are minuscule. As a result, this can drive farmers to innovate and use efficient means of producing and storing crops for sale. About 15 percent of crops are sold for profit; the rest are consumed for survival. There are no long-term means of storage, so there is little reason to try to produce more crops; they would just spoil.

Education induces innovation and a more educated population. Provided they have the right tools, this leads to business developments. Agriculture accounts for more than 80 percent of all jobs in Burundi. This makes investing in other sectors, such as the power sector, appealing. With affordable and widespread electricity, farmers could afford better equipment, solar power, for example, to store and use energy when needed. As shown above, investment in education has a widespread effect on an economy, especially in a developing economy.


In terms of GDP, Burundi grew little since 2015. But, investing and improving in the above sectors are a good start to developing the country, creating jobs, improving health and education and reducing poverty. Even simple bus transportation systems would cut the travel time Burundians have while walking over an hour to the market. Electricity, roads and bridges are areas for growth. Subsequently, their development in Burundi would create jobs. For instance, these jobs could be involved with building schools, providing electricity to over 90 percent of Burundians without electricity and supplying farming equipment to help increase productivity and wages.

According to Bertrand Badre, CFO of the World Bank, “Infrastructure is the backbone of any country, generating jobs, improving the quality of life for the poor and boosting economic growth.” Infrastructure creates jobs and therefore helps increase profits of those employed in the industry. Additionally, the infrastructure helps those who would use public transportation and electricity for their occupation. Electricity access is only five percent. Therefore, increasing access would only help grow the struggling economy, thus helping to reduce poverty in Burundi.


Burundi must also improve the business environment so that external investors and internal investors will view the potentially lucrative opportunity of producing products and services in the country. A stable and predictable business environment can be formed as a result of the government providing an incentive to entrepreneurs who are looking to expand to the country. Without government involvement, it’s difficult to improve health care, education and infrastructure. In order to reduce poverty in Burundi, development begins with responsible governments that take initiative in helping its people.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts about Food Assistance in Burundi
Burundi is a small, landlocked country located in East Africa, bordered by Rwanda and the Republic of the Congo. Though Burundi is rich in agriculture, with coffee as its main export, more than 65 percent of citizens live in poverty. About 1.4 million people or 13 percent of the Burundi population require emergency food assistance, including 56 percent of children who suffer from stunting. Food assistance in Burundi is crucial to the survival of these people as without outside food assistance, Burundi would only manage to produce enough food to last every citizen 55 days. In this article, the top five facts to know about food assistance in Burundi are presented.

Top 5 Facts about Food Assistance in Burundi

  1. As one option for providing food assistance in Burundi, an organization will directly provide emergency food, whether that be through providing meals to children at school or giving families livestock for milk, meat, or eggs. The World Food Programme (WFP) is a United Nations organization that works with the Burundi government and other U.N. agencies to provide immediate emergency food assistance in Burundi. In 2017, WFP fed over 464,000 children through their homegrown school meals program and provided 31 percent of all school meals in the country. This act of food assistance has decreased school dropout rates by 10 percent from 2014 to 2017 because children now know that they will be fed at school, no matter what their situation at home.
  2. The United States, along with the U.N., also provides emergency food assistance in Burundi. In 2017, The United States gave almost $50 million in emergency humanitarian assistance that includes both medical assistance and food assistance. USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) works through WFP to provide food for refugees and specialized nutritious food for malnourished children and pregnant women. In 2018 alone, FFP contributed $30.1 million, which amounts to 11,360 metric tons of food to Burundi.
  3. As a second option for providing food assistance in Burundi, organizations will conduct research to figure out how best to optimize food assistance programs. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with support from USAID, conducted a study called Tubaramure from 2009 to 2014 to see the impact of food assistance on pregnant mothers and children younger than 2 years. They found that food assistance has the greatest effect on a child from the time of their conception to their second birthday, and can reduce the risk of stunting throughout their childhood. This information greatly assists food assistance programs and can help them concentrate their efforts on children under the age of 2.
  4. As a third option for providing food assistance in Burundi, organizations will help the citizens of Burundi provide food for themselves. This includes training farmers, thinking of innovative ways to farm and control erosion, a big problem in Burundi because of the many hills, or providing the means for a family to start their own farm. For example, after doing extensive research, Wageningen University is implementing a project called Supporting Agricultural Productivity in Burundi (PAPAB). This project will work with 80,000 farmers to improve their access to fertilizer, their knowledge of current farming methods and their overall motivation to farm.
  5. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also participated in this method to provide food assistance in Burundi. They worked with Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) to integrate livestock manure, used as fertilizer, into regular farming practices, reinforce erosion control through forest planting and train farmers in specialized areas, such as mushroom cultivation. This way, farmers can provide additional income for their families. Through FAO and FFS’s work, 200 families in urban areas now have micro-gardens and the community has planted more than 49,000 fruit tree saplings. In the future, FAO plans to provide families with goats for breeding and continue teaching them about micro-gardens to supplement their nutrition intake.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and more than 50 percent of the Burundi population is chronically food insecure. However, organizations who provide food assistance in Burundi, such as USAID, WFP and FAO are giving life-saving support to the people who need it most.

– Natalie Dell

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in BurundiAt then end of June this year, the Ministry of Education in Burundi decided to ban pregnant girls and teenage fathers from attending school. Girls have always been treated unfairly in comparison to boys when it comes to education, and this new ban is just another example. Although the ban feigns equality by giving teenage fathers the boot: the solution is faulty.

Teenage Pregnancy in Burundi

To begin with, all children deserve the right to education and should not be denied it on the premise of pregnancy. Secondly, there is no access to a reliable method to establish a teenage boy’s paternity. The ban is inherently biased against girls because they cannot hide their pregnancy. Since teenage pregnancy is an issue, girls’ education in Burundi will be affected by this restriction because fewer girls will be able to attend school.

The impact of this new law has the potential to be irreparably damaging, as 11 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Burundi are sexually active. Additionally, 40 percent of victims of sexual or physical violence in Burundi are teenage girls. There is simply no way for the Ministry of Education to police sexual violence in order for it to entirely stop affecting girls of school-age. The ban does nothing but punish girls for a situation they have no control over.

Other countries such as Morocco and Sudan have also taken measures in an attempt to prevent premarital sex. The laws they have in place allow young girls to face criminal charges for adultery and extramarital sex. They can also be expelled from school. Officials have stated the laws are necessary to punish girls for “moral failures.”

Poverty and Girls’ Education in Burundi

Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 65 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Living in a low-income region already is detrimental to girls’ education in Burundi. Girls’ families often cannot afford school supplies and the quality of education is not good either.

The last thing girls need are more roadblocks to getting their education. The new ban on attending school while pregnant perpetuates stigmas and isolate young girls socially. These girls are often already financially disadvantaged and ostracizing them from the school system puts them in a much less supported and dangerous place.

Some countries have policies that allow girls to re-enter school after being expelled. However, it is common for these systems to have many deterrents for girls to actually re-enter. Medical exams and an extended maternity leave are just a few examples.

After a young girl has been ostracized and humiliated, it is unlikely she will want to return to pick up from where she left off. The re-entry programs make the system seem a little more humane. But when thought about realistically, they probably will not provide girls with more opportunity.

Girls’ education in Burundi has a long way to go after the passing of this law. Surpassing financial obstacles in an impoverished country to get an education is hard enough on its own. Girls should not have to live in the fear of losing their shot at getting an education because of a situation that they are not responsible for.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burundi
Burundi is a small, landlocked country in Eastern Africa with a population of 8 million people. It also stands to be one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, ranked 184 out of 188 countries on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. While aiding the struggling country, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi as well.

Burundi’s Political Climate

Burundi suffered a civil war in 1962 and since then has been plagued by ethnic and political conflict amidst continuing efforts to recover as a nation. Poverty has increased due to the spike in violence since the election of Pierre Nkurunziza in 2005. Nkurunziza has since bypassed constitutional limits on his electoral eligibility through announcing a law permitting him to remain in office until 2034.

With the instability in Burundi, continued funding to the country ensures the wellbeing of its citizens. However, the European Union suspended funds to Burundi in March after declaring the president had not done enough to resolve the ongoing political and economic crisis.

But this is not the time to suspend funds to Burundi, for it would do more harm than good. For example, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi in a multitude of ways.

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burundi: Peacekeeping

The foreign aid provided to Burundi would help support America’s goal of peacekeeping in other nations. Burundi is the second-highest contributor to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which focuses on regional peacekeeping.

Through Burundi’s 5,432 troops participating in AMISOM, it is slowly restoring stability around the continent as far as the Horn of Africa.

However, with continued unrest, Burundi faces recalling its deployed troops within and surrounding the country. In this case, the rate of violence and instability will increase not only in the country of Burundi but also in surrounding regions.

Without receiving the foreign aid, Burundi’s military would be unable to assist in peacekeeping throughout the continent, which would most likely lead to the deployment of more American troops onto African soil.

U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to Burundi: Boosting the Economy

Another method for how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi is by pouring financially into the economy of Burundi, which in turn would boost America’s economy.

U.S. investments to Burundi ensure the country can climb the economic ladder, and therefore provide more income for the people of Burundi. When the people of Burundi have higher incomes, they are able to contribute more to the economy of the country.

This benefits American businesses by providing connections with new customers and suppliers. It also prevents additional markets that could be potential competition.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Burundi through economic growth and development, political stability and respect for human rights; therefore, it is important to continue funding the nation of Burundi.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

The general public is unable to form any positive conclusions from media sources due to how the media misrepresents Burundi. Through closer analysis, however, the public may see a shimmer of hope behind all the destruction that the media portrays is occurring in Burundi.

How Does the Media Portray Burundi?

The media portrays Burundi as economically unstable; however, this fact is only partially true. Population growth in Burundi continues to rapidly increase, leaving the nation fighting to support their growing nation.

Burundi’s economy is lacking in their growth rate with the population growth rate at 3.1 percent annually, and the GDP per capita not growing more than 1.5 percent even in the best of recent years. Because of these economic difficulties the country has endured, Burundi’s economy relies 49 percent on international financial aid.

International Aid

The media states that Western donors are in the process of cutting support towards Burundi, pushing the nation even more towards intolerable levels of poverty; however, in the past three years alone, the United States has donated over $135 million in foreign aid towards the country of Burundi.

Other organizations such as the World Bank pledged $440 million towards helping the country’s financial crisis, and the EU has already made firm commitments towards achieving this goal. Overall, donors have pledged over $2 billion for Burundi’s development strategy in order to rebuild the nation after its civil war and national political crises.

Internal Controversy

How the media misrepresents Burundi can also be seen in the violence occurring in the country due to political turmoil. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, released a referendum date for May 17 for a controversial constitutional reform. If this reform is passed, it would allow President Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034 — an unjust situation that would cause public uproar.

The violence has increased to such a degree that the U.S. State Department has warned Americans not to travel to Burundi, and that Burundi citizens are trained to promote violence and on the path towards another civil war. However, this media representation fails to mention measures taken within the nation to ensure the people of Burundi have alternative methods to violence.

New Generation

Diedonné Nahimana, an award-winning Burundi citizen, created the program of New Generation in Bujumbura to coach victims of war to become ambassadors for peace. New Generation was created to provide victims or orphans of war with alternative opportunities for a successful life rather than turning to violence.

This program develops a new generation of leaders who will restore Burundi after their 12-year civil war, and hopefully prevent the return of war. The foundation of their teaching is based upon non-violence as in the steps of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The dream is that by 2020, this new generation will control leadership positions in the country and teach this method of non-violence to others and ensure peace in the country. Due to all of this violence, more than a quarter of a million people have Burundi in terror, seeking refuge in other countries.

Global Priority

Despite this, sources claim that the world doesn’t seem to notice this violence occurring in Burundi and thus serve as another example of how the media misrepresents Burundi.

The people of Burundi are under constant persecution and live in terror in their country due to the political crises and increased poverty conditions; however, it is not the case that the world has turned their back on this African country. Since 2015, over 300,000 people have fled the country of Burundi, many to refugee camps in neighboring African countries where unfortunately, persecution and inhumane actions still exist.

Struggle and Sanctuary

Other countries, such as Canada, have developed methods to ensure Burundi refugees are welcome in their countries. Canada has designated refugee claims from Burundi which welcomes refugees into their country. In fact, Canada proudly holds a Burundian community of roughly 10,000 and continues to allow refugees inside its borders. The United States has also welcomed over 2,000 Burundian refugees in the past two years and the numbers increase daily.

Although Burundi endures many hardships from political crises, poverty and population growth, there is more good occurring in the country than what the media showcases to the public.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

credit access in BurundiBurundi is a resource-deficient country that has been struggling to emerge from years of civil war. Underdeveloped in the manufacturing sector with the agriculture area accounting for roughly 40 percent of its GDP and employing over 90 percent of the population, the large majority of Burundians rely on agriculture to make a living. In order for the people of Burundi to grow income-generating businesses in the agricultural sector, the demand for financial assistance must be able to meet the supply. Poverty among the population has limited the capacity for credit access in Burundi.

Being able to obtain a loan at banks in Burundi is not easy; Burundi ranks 129th out of 137 economies in the 2017-18 Global Competitiveness Index compiled by the World Economic Forum. As a result of this difficulty, most entrepreneurs turn to loan sharks.

Traditional banking services are not sturdy or large enough to serve the population’s needs in building assets and establishing property. Retail and corporate banking is at a very early stage of development and many depend on microcredit or informal lending for credit access in Burundi.

Burundian farmers rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, and One Acre Fund (OAF) has experienced an immense demand from these farmers for the services they offer. One Acre Fund is a nonprofit that offers credit and guidance in order to assist small landowners in growing their way out of famine and help them build thriving futures. Burundi is just one out of the many developing countries they serve.

OAF offers a complete package of services, utilizing a four-step market-based strategy that allows the organization to remain financially sustainable and grow to touch the lives of more farmers each year.

  1. Asset-Based Loans
    Financing for quality seeds and fertilizer is given to farmers on a credit basis, and they are offered a flexible repayment plan that allows them to repay their loans in any amount throughout the term.
  2. Delivery
    Farm inputs are delivered to areas that are within walking distance of all the farmers that OAF serves.
  3. Training
    Trained professionals offer the farmers guidance on advanced agricultural techniques throughout the entire season.
  4. Market Facilitation
    Solutions for storing crops and techniques on monitoring the constant variations of the market are taught to the farmers so that they are able to time the sale of their crops in order to maximize profits.

This strategy has allowed for thousands of families to yield higher-quality crops without spending additional funds. With Burundi being one of the poorest countries globally, farmers that are usually starting at a low profit baseline have seen large improvements in their earnings since being involved with One Acre Fund. Subsequently, retention of farmers and loan repayment rates in Burundi are some of the highest of all the countries OAF serves. By providing all of these services in one, One Acre Fund allows farmers a useful way to get farming help and credit access in Burundi.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in BurundiBurundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region in East Africa. It is one of the poorest nations in the world, with almost 90 percent of its population living in rural areas. Most of its citizens rely on agriculture and livestock for their livelihood, meaning that working towards sustainable agriculture in Burundi is a crucial goal.

There are several ongoing projects that aim to foster sustainable agriculture in Burundi. For instance, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is involved in an integrated project to strengthen people’s livelihoods through sustainable and efficient agricultural intensification. The FAO is working closely with the Agricultural Research Institute of Burundi and the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement on this project in order to “help communities living in these watersheds to better manage their land and improve their means of food production and nutrition.”

The primary way this project is achieving its goal is through establishing and maintaining farmer field schools that teach farmers good farming practices. For instance, in an attempt to improve agricultural production in a sustainable manner, the integrated aquaculture and agriculture system established in Mwaro province provides an opportunity to produce crops, fish and small livestock in a relatively small area. Both men and women farmers attend these farmer field schools to receive training in production management. A facilitator guides these self-identified trainees with the goal of increasing capacity development through practices that promote sustainable agriculture in Burundi, including composting techniques, edible mushroom cultivation, fish pond management and erosion control.

This project has already managed to achieve several successes. For instance, due to this project, nearly 200 households established micro-gardens in urban and peri-urban places, thereby creating opportunities for smallholders to produce despite the very limited land availability. Additionally, the project also facilitated the “reinforcement of erosion control and watershed stabilization techniques using integrated forestry practices, perennial forage grasses and field mapping.” As a result of this project, farmers have also been able to plant improved seeds of staple crops in their fields and the community has planted more than 49,000 fruit tree saplings.

Several issues threaten sustainable agriculture in Burundi. For instance, Burundi faces land degradation and soil impoverishment due to high populations, deforestation, overgrazing, loss of habitats and water scarcity. The country has taken several significant measures to address and improve soil fertility such as erosion control measures, river bank protection, forestry plantation, agroforestry plantation and management. In fact, the country now has a “national framework investment in sustainable land management and new laws on land, forestry and biodiversity conservation.”

Another project called Supporting Agricultural Productivity in Burundi (PAPAB), led by the IFDC, Alterra Wageningen UR, Oxfam Novib and ZOA aims to sustainably increase food production and improve the food security of at least 480,000 farming families in Burundi. By taking a participatory approach centered on integrated management, PAPAB promotes market-oriented and sustainable agricultural techniques. Recognizing that smallholders produce little to meet their own needs, let alone those of the market, PAPAB works to introduce efficient and well-integrated farming practices. It plans on using techniques such as improving farmers’ access to fertilizers and farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer and collaboration in order to increase efficiency and production.

Burundi is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the current political instability in the country only adds to its challenges. Malnutrition in the country is one of the highest in the world. Sustainable agriculture is one of its biggest challenges and an important goal. Hopefully, these projects will continue to improve and promote sustainable agriculture in Burundi.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Burundi
The 10.4 million people living in Burundi suffered through civil war conflict that began in 1994 and lasted for 12 years. Ongoing violence has since kept Burundi one of the poorest and hungriest countries in the world. In 2015, the political and social unrest reached a tipping point when a contested presidential election plunged the country into its worst crisis yet. Humanitarian aid to Burundi was threatened after donors suspended funding to the government following human rights violations and negligent use of funds. Fortunately, organizations have been focused on finding other ways to aid Burundi citizens and refugees.

After suspending governmental aid in 2016, the European Union has been redirecting humanitarian aid to Burundi by concentrating its efforts on local populations and civil society. Over 90 percent of Burundi’s population depends on agriculture, based mainly on subsistence farming, one of the main contributors to its GDP. The European Development Fund has allocated $500 million in aid. The funding will be used to support sustainable rural development, benefiting nutrition, health and energy, and helping Burundi citizens support themselves.

The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has partnered with singer Beyoncé to launch BEYGOOD4BURUNDI, a partnership dedicated to providing safe water in Burundi. Over the next few years, the program will improve water sanitation facilities in schools, provide hygiene education and construct new wells equipped with hand pumps. Access to clean water will prevent transmission of water-borne diseases, one of the leading causes of death of children in Burundi. The risk of attack on young girls will also be lowered, as they will no longer have to travel for miles to find water.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released an extensive regional response plan to organize global humanitarian aid to Burundi. After receiving aid from countries all over the world, the humanitarian response plan is already about 88 percent funded and is focusing its efforts on providing education, food, safety and economic growth in Burundi.

While providing humanitarian aid to Burundi without the full cooperation of their government is a challenge, organizations have found ways to directly help villages sustain themselves, help more children receive education, improve health and hygiene to help prevent disease, and give access to safe water.

– Jenae Atwell

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in BurundiBurundi is a small country in Africa with a population of over 10 million people. It is also one of the poorest countries on Earth. This African nation was involved in a 12-year civil war and is currently recovering from it.

Fortunately, its recovery from war has not led women’s empowerment in Burundi astray. In fact, Burundi has a quota for the amount of women in government. While it is not quite even with men, the country requires at least 30 percent of federal government positions be filled by women. Women also account for more than half of the workforce in Burundi and play a large role in agriculture.

Despite these factors, women still face discrimination when running for office. The 30 percent quota is not mandated for local government, and many citizens want more women in local positions. Women make up only 17 percent of local governments, much less than at the national level. At the local level, one is able to make a more direct impact on one’s community, leading many women to run for leadership positions within their communities. This movement toward more female leaders is a positive step toward overcoming gender discrimination and stereotypes.

The organization Search for Common Ground and the Dutch government have come together to help encourage women’s empowerment in Burundi, assisting in strengthening women’s participation in all levels of government. The women that they support must overcome the “practical challenges [that] make it difficult to attain true equality with their male counterparts, including balancing the demands of their position with responsibilities at home, a lack of funds to run a campaign, and simply overcoming a lack of experience in government in order to gain greater legitimacy and step into decision-making roles.”

The U.N. has also been working on this issue and has created programs to train women in how to participate in public affairs. Some of the topics covered include lobbying and negotiating, both skills that women need to be successful and make an impact when they are not equally represented. The U.N. also aims to make gender issues and gender policy the center of local and national conversations. This will not only empower women, but also empower their communities.

Because women are working harder to gain political power and there is more discussion about gender, the issues surrounding how women are viewed in society and culture will begin to be questioned more. Hopefully, as a result, Burundi will be able to see that women are more than just supporters of their husbands and children; they are also supporters of their country. For now, women’s empowerment in Burundi is growing and will continue to thrive until women have the same rights and representation as men.

– Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr