Civil society calls for women's priorities to be at heart of Burundi's development

At the start of an important conference on the future of Burundi, an elected delegation of Burundian women’s rights activists put forth concrete policy recommendations on development, gender equality, economic empowerment and peacebuilding priorities for their country.

International Alert and UN Women are supporting this delegation to participate in the conference taking place in Geneva on 29th and 30th October 2012, which brings together representatives of the Burundian government, partner governments and agencies and civil society to focus on the implementation of Burundi’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (the PRSP II).

This conference is a vital opportunity for the Government of Burundi and its partners to ensure the country’s development is equitable, conflict-sensitive and gender-sensitive, says Marie Goretti Ndacayisaba, of the Burundian association Dushirehamwe, on behalf of the delegation. ‘The needs and priorities of women and girls need to be addressed through the framework of the PRSP II if the current status quo of widespread poverty, illiteracy and discrimination against women is to be transformed’ ̶ continues Ndacayisaba.

Burundi’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper outlines the Government’s commitments for the country’s economic growth and development from 2012 to 2016 and was prepared in consultation with development partners and other stakeholders. Following the successful advocacy of these women’s rights organisations in Burundi over the past few years, the PRSP II document reflects concerns and priorities outlined by a broad cross-section of Burundian women. It is now crucial to ensure that these written commitments are translated into concrete and tangible actions that will benefit women and girls, and contribute to durable peace and reconciliation for all Burundians.

In a declaration written by the delegation ahead of the conference (read the declaration here), women’s rights organisations called for the following:

  1. Gender Equality: The Government of Burundi should establish community centres and community radios across the country, in an effort to allow Burundian women to access information about their rights, civic education, transformative leadership, and conflict transformation, and to stimulate a change in discriminatory attitudes towards women.
  2. Peacebuilding: A rehabilitation and social cohesion fund should be established to meet the specific needs of victims of the conflict, including women and girls, and support the implementation and smooth functioning of transitional justice mechanisms. In addition, the creation of an early warning system that is open to participation by women's organisations would help prevent the resurgence of violence and prevent impunity for crimes.
  3. Sustainable Growth: A venture capital fund and micro-credit schemes should be put in place to promote small projects initiated by women and young girls from rural communities. The Government of Burundi and international partners should offer financial and technical support to a functional literacy programme based around income-generating activities that favour women and young people from rural communities, while also focusing on improving the skills of young people to make them more competitive in the labour market.
  4. Access to Basic Services: To address the deplorable shortage of water standpipes in rural areas of Burundi and reduce the burden of fetching water on women, it is crucial to improve access to drinking water through the construction and responsible management of water standpipes.
  5. Sexual and Domestic Violence: In order to support the efforts made by the Government and women's organisations in the fight against sexual and domestic violence, there is an urgent need to finance the creation and running of centres to meet the needs of victims of sexual and domestic violence.
  6. Capacity-building: Burundian women's rights organisations believe that the successful implementation of the PRSP II will require capacity-building in terms of the human, financial and organisational resources of all actors generally, and women and girls in particular.
  7. Gender-sensitive development: For Burundi’s future to be equitable and fair for all, the Government of Burundi and its partners need to ensure the gender-sensitive financing of the PRSP II and take all measures necessary to reflect women’s priorities in the budget allocated thereto. For a successful implementation of this framework, a mechanism is needed to ensure coordinated interventions as well as monitoring and evaluation; women's organisations should play a key role in monitoring the implementation of the PRSP II. Furthermore, a "gender observatory” should be set up to ensure that gender issues are properly taken into account.

Read the Declaration by Burundian Women's Rights Organisations here.

Alert has been working in Burundi since 1995. In partnership with Burundian organisations Dushirehamwe, Réseau Femmes et Paix, Association des Femmes Rapatriées du Burundi, and Collectif des Associations et ONG Féminines du Burundi, Alert works to ensure that roles and concerns of women, and national reconciliation are central to the poverty reduction process. Burundian women’s views and concerns are captured in our film Our Voices, which is available at http://www.international-alert.org/news/our-voices-0.

Photo: Jenny Matthews/ International Alert