Daphrose Ntarataze Barampama and Désiré Tuyishemeze recognise the accomplishments of rural women from Burundi who have shown leadership in shaping their community futures.
We want to share some of the experiences of rural women, now peace creators and community leaders who have taken part in the ‘Muntunuwundi’ Circles of Peace and Development programme in Burundi. Their extraordinary stories, courage and resilience prompt our admiration. Almost all of them cannot read or write, but since they participated in CoP, they are carrying a light that spark hopes in an environment of great precariousness.
They come from a commune in Kayanza province, one of the most populous provinces of Burundi and very marked by the different conflicts that have caused inter-community cracks. The negative consequences of overpopulation are many and the wounds of the past are not yet healed in the hearts and memories of the inhabitants of this part of the country.
Amahoriwacu (Peace at Home) and GAP Abarimyi b'Amahoro (Peace Growers) are the name of two of our Positive Action Groups (GAP). Each brings together ten to twelve women representative of the ethnic, associative and socio-political diversities of the Butaganzwa Commune. The majority of Amahoriacu GAP members are Batwa women - the underreported ethnic minority of the country.
During the 6-day Peace Circle in a safe and reassuring space – so different from their daily environment marked by concerns, traumas and anxieties - these women had the opportunity to rebuild themselves, and then rebuild their communities. To heal history, we helped them face their anxieties and to pin down their fears in order to find new perspectives.
These valiant women did not fail to take advantage of the what they experienced and our innovative training in development for the benefit of themselves and their entire communities. Their testimonies were worth ingots of gold as for their achievements as creators of peace - a peace which is rooted in each person and then grows around them.
The impact of the Creators of Peace Circle on these women and their communities exceeds all expectations. The control of anger, forgiveness, the healing of the wounds of the past, initiatives defeating the complexities imposed by habits and customs are all testimonies of transformation carried out by these women.
This transformation is also evident as solidarity, mutual aid and a culture of trust builds among them. They have started a goat-breeding initiative to lead together. This approach provides a restoration of the positive actions and values that once were the pride of our ancestors and of our society, but now are shrinking because of the rifts between Burundians and growing poverty.
Other activities such as pottery, basketry, cassava cultivation using the "Tumbukiza" method and vegetable farming are practiced by these women with the aim of increasing production to meet their family needs. These activities also allow them to remain united in order to find answers to community challenges. They meet monthly, or more often to deal with emergencies, and talk about the health of their action group, their family and their community in general.
Despite their difficult economic situation, they did not hesitate to collect money to return a child back to school who had been expelled for not being able to pay school fees and to pay a mutual health card to a needy person of their village who needed to be treated.
These women have taken many other initiatives to reduce injustices and strengthen social cohesion. This is the case with this woman who had extraordinary courage in saving the life of an infant that a mother had abandoned. This brave woman was able to listen to the cries of this life in distress, overcome fear to find it in the dark and call the police who found the baby's mother.
In their communities, these women are inspiring and people come to confide in them. Three other groups were born under the initiative of these two action groups in order to do like them in the search for solutions to their own challenges. One is composed of young students, the second of local women, and the third by women and men of the Twa ethnic group.
These women shine through civic and practical leadership. Together, they are shaping a new community story, going beyond taboos and social clichés. Their ethnic, social and political differences, which some might consider an obstacle, have been transformed into an asset that serves as a model of friendship and social cohesion.
For more information about the work of ‘Artisans de Paix’ in Burundi, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org