Women's Rights in Burundi
Located in Africa’s southeastern region, Burundi, a heart-shaped nation bordering Lake Tanganyika and Rwanda, is one of the poorest countries in the world. With a poverty rate of nearly 75 percent, the nation is largely underdeveloped. In terms of women’s rights, life in Burundi could be better, as many of the country’s citizens cling to discriminatory perspectives that hold their women back. Despite this, the country has made great strides toward cultivating a more equal nation, such as in 2005 when it included gender equality in its reformed Constitution.

Pregnancy and Sexual Health

In Burundi, discussing sex is generally viewed as a taboo subject. Without the occurrence of these necessary conversations, sexual education is often replaced by false information, and many of the country’s citizens fail to understand their own bodies; an issue most dangerous when it comes to young women and girls. Without knowing the way their bodies work, many Burundian women experience unplanned extramarital pregnancies, and because of Burundi’s negative prejudice toward non-marital pregnancy, many of these girls are often ostracized from their communities, kicked out of their homes and forced out of their schools.

Pamella Mubeza, a native to Burundi, fell victim to this system at a young age. Though, after seeing the prevalence of her issue among other Burundian women, she began an organization known as l’Association des mamans célibataires (the Organisation for Single Mums). Through the organization, Mubeza travels to some of the most impoverished places in the city of Bujumbura, such as Kinyankonge and Kinama, and works with young single mothers to not only re-enroll them in school but to rebuild the self esteem their homeland formerly shamed out of them. By 2019, Mubeza’s organization was able to re-enroll 40 young women in schooling and instilled 250 with a newfound desire to learn.

CARE Burundi, a non-profit organization that works to improve the impoverished realities of women and young girls, is also working to help solve the issue. In 2016, the organization launched an initiative known as the Joint Programme, a 4-year-long project that provides Burundian girls with comprehensive sexual and reproductive education through a comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curriculum called “The World Starts with Me” (WSWM). The program educates young women about their rights and their bodies, and after its first year of implementation, it was taught in 76 Burundian schools and educated 6,007 young women.

Access to female hygiene products is another one of Burundi’s sexual health problems. With sanitary napkins costing up to 2,000 Burundian francs and the country regarding menstrual periods as shameful, many of the nation’s women turn to unhygienic sources, such as grass and plastic bags, during their menstrual cycles. However, the Organisation for Single Mums is working to combat the problem, as they hand out 1,500 free sanitary napkins to Burundian women each month.

Gender-Based Violence

Sexual violence against women is a growing problem in Burundi. With nearly 23 percent of Burundian women experiencing sexual abuse, and 50 percent of these victims being under the age of 13, the prevalence of gender-based violence in Burundi is undeniable.

Due to the nation’s connection between shame and sexuality, many sexual abuse cases often go unreported, so the number of women experiencing them is likely much higher.

However, through the help of UNICEF and NGO partner Caritas Burundi, Burundian sexual violence is being challenged. Through an initiative known as the Giriteka project, UNICEF and Caritas Burundi are bringing together the nation’s doctors, psychologists, nurses, community leaders, local authorities and religious leaders and teaching them how to best care for their nation’s sexually abused women. From training psychologists on how to prevent gender-based violence to working with religious leaders on how to direct victims toward help, thanks to these organizations, women’s rights in Burundi are not only being protected but defended.

Economic Opportunity

When it comes to the workforce, Burundian women make up 90 percent of the country’s food and export jobs and  with 55.2 percent of the nation’s workforce being female, Burundian women are making substantial contributions toward the advancement of their national economy.

However, this same level of equality cannot be seen in the country’s distribution of land.

Access to property ownership is the largest barrier Burundian women face when seeking economic equality. While 80.2 percent of the country’s people own land, women make up only 17.7 percent of them since the country lacks proper legislation that prohibits male succession traditions from overriding women’s rights.

Public opinion may be partly responsible for these discriminatory practices since 57 percent of the nation’s people believe women and men should not have equal land rights when it comes to inheritance.

Despite this prejudicial reality, U.N. Women is making women’s pathway to land ownership easier by providing them with monetary loans.

Also, the Zionist Organization of America has created an initiative meant to advocate for female land rights in Burundi by urging the nation’s women who do own land to register it.

By working at the community level, these organizations are advocating for the economic endeavors of Burundian women, and actively challenging the misogynistic gender norms that have been placed upon these their lives.

While women’s rights in Burundi are far from equal, the good news is that great work is being done to better them. Thanks to organizations like U.N. Women and initiatives such as the Giriteka project, women in Burundi are not only being cared for but heard. By advocating for women’s rights, these organizations are not only providing Burundi’s women with the freedom to hope for a better life but also to live one.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Five-IGO-Plans-For-Global-Educational-Improvement-In-20162015 was an active and often successful year for global education in terms of aid and education programs. UNESCO and USAID have several programs that will continue to be enforced into 2016. The following list of International Governmental Organization, or IGO plans provide various global education agreements.

1. UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning

This program is designed for communicating the importance of a quality primary and secondary education. The site includes education reports on several countries, suggestions for improving learning outcomes such as a “contextualized [education] to each regions specific realities,” and financial strategies for covering program costs.

The learning portal has been accessible since January 2016, from anywhere and at no cost to individuals.

2. The Joint Programme

This program,continuing enforcement in 2016, consists of educational focus in Mali, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Sudan and Tanzania. The program lists its four main components:

  • Improving the quality of education in the regions
  • Increasing relations between health and education sects
  • Creating an enabling environment
  • Advancing the data and evidence-base

The program is unique in that it seeks to eliminate the social problems young girls deal with beginning in puberty. It seeks to educate girls about the risks of pregnancy, and their rights to refrain from young and enforced marriages.

3. UNESCO And Panasonic

UNESCO has entered a public-private relationship with Panasonic, launching the program Strengthening Schools for Education for Sustainable Development in Myanmar. The program seeks to teach young children to read while promoting sustainable and effective global citizen lifestyles.

It will also advocate the principles of protecting the environment, ethical and civil principles and sustainable development.

Additionally, Panasonic has donated 500 Eneloop Solar Storage Units to 40 schools for an effective learning environment. The Chief Representative of Panasonic expresses their hopes the donation will be useful to students studying late at night and during power outings.

4. USAID in Jordan

Through USAID, the U.S. Government plans to build 25 new schools in Jordan in collaboration with the Let Girls Learn Initiative. With overcrowded classrooms the norm in urban Jordan, the plan is to construct more schools. The initiative will be available to 25,000 children each year.

The funds will be directed towards 70 percent of girls’ schools, also available to the thousands of Syrian refugees finding safe haven in Jordanian schools. The initiative will be particularly advantageous for girls in Jordan who are known to have limited access to education.

5. USAID’s Enrichment Initiative To Increase Literacy At The Primary School Level

This initiative is planned to continue into March 2016 in Jamaica. The program has successfully shown improvements in literacy in 2015. This has been accomplished through integrating technology into lessons and advocating for parental and teacher participation. To date, the program has reached 43,000 students and hopes to reach thousands more in 2016.

UNESCO claims that worldwide 250,000 children are not learning the basic skills needed to successfully participate in society and receive a decent livelihood. Furthermore, the organization explains that it isn’t enough to increase student enrollment alone, but also the quality of the education they’re receiving.

Mayra Vega

Photo: Google Images