One woman's resolve to promote women in decision-making roles

 

Adelaïde Uwimana’s efforts to advocate for women in decision-making roles and protect their interests have led to a significant shift in a community that previously lacked female leadership. Over the past year, her journey in the Kavumu district, situated in the Kamenge zone of Bujumbura Mairie, Burundi, has reshaped governance dynamics. It has also stimulated initiatives to tackle the prevalent problem of violence against women.

Like many parts of Burundi, Kamenge bore the scars of the 1993-2003 civil war, intensified existing challenges and leaving its women vulnerable to various forms of violence and systemic exclusion. Women in the community faced barriers to participation in decision-making processes and experienced high rates of domestic violence. Adelaïde's efforts aimed to dismantle these obstacles by promoting women's leadership, mediating conflicts between couples, and encouraging women's participation in economic activities – recognising financial independence as a crucial step towards broader societal transformation.

Appointed as the chief of the Kavumu district in 2010, Adelaïde's path took a turn when she joined the Synergy for Peace III project (SfP III) Bujumbura women's platform in March 2023. Empowered by Jimbere Magazine's Inkingi programme, a radio show focused on topics like female leadership, she overcame her initial hesitations and embraced her role as a leader. "I've realised that my voice can have a greater impact, especially by involving more other women committed to a kind of synergy within the community," she affirmed, determined to deconstruct gender stereotypes and combat violence against women.

In January 2023, Adelaïde took a decisive step by appointing four women as cell leaders – a historic moment for the community. These leaders met regularly to discuss how to promote women's interests, encourage one another, exchange experiences, and explore matters of responsible leadership. Some meetings were supported by the SfP III project through Inkingi broadcasts, while others were initiated independently.

Solange Ndimurukundo, one of the appointed leaders, is determined to drive change in Kavumu. She embarked on a mission to sensitise other women on the importance of active participation in local governance and community development initiatives. Together with Adelaïde and the other women leaders, she contributed to the fight against gender-based violence through mediation initiatives for couples.

The impact of female leadership in Kamenge soon became evident, with a notable decrease in reported cases of domestic violence – a transformation acknowledged by other leaders in the area. According to Adelaïde, the presence of women in decision-making positions instilled a sense of trust among survivors, who felt more comfortable confiding in fellow women. "The successful cases we handle on a daily basis motivate others to come to us and ask for our intervention," she said, noting that the determination of women in leadership roles prompted perpetrators of domestic violence to question their behaviour.

Women's leadership extended beyond resolving conflicts, fostering economic empowerment and community development. As Adelaïde put it, "This change has enabled us to get on with other development activities because where there is peace, development continues." Jimbere's Inkingi activities, through the Synergy for Peace III project, which seeks to facilitate inclusive and collaborative livelihood and social cohesion initiatives, provided crucial support in consolidating these gains, encouraging women to join cooperatives, borrow capital, and earn a profit for their sustenance – ideas born from testimonials of women entrepreneurs featured on the programme.

Adelaïde Uwimana's journey showcases the potential of female leadership in combating violence against women and fostering societal change. Her commitment to promoting women's empowerment extends beyond immediate outcomes, envisioning a future where women's leadership becomes synonymous with an equitable and resilient society. Investing in women’s leadership is vital as a catalyst for building sustainable peace and development.

 

A friendship restored through the formation of a dialogue space in Kenya's Kerio Valley

In the Kerio Valley in Kenya's North Rift Region, two former close friends, Francis, a Marakwet, and Johnstone, a Pokot, were once united in their agricultural pursuits and shared common goals. However, as conflicts escalated in the valley, their friendship deteriorated, leading to unrest within their communities.

For ten years, Francis and Johnstone lived physically and emotionally apart. Their bitterness eroded their relationship, leaving behind broken dreams and unfulfilled promises in their agricultural pursuits.

The conflict between the Pokot and Marakwet communities in the Kerio Valley belt is mostly linked to fights over pasture and water, animal theft disputes, revenge and counter-revenge attacks, and tribal clashes. This conflict has hindered development, caused insecurity, and resulted in violence. Local peace committees play a crucial role in promoting peace. However, achieving lasting peace in some areas remains challenging, highlighting the importance of community engagement to address drivers of conflicts and foster sustainable peace and development.

Their fate changed with the creation of the Mikeu-Sagat Inter-Village Dialogue Spaces (IVDS), the immediate structure on the conflict belt that responds to violent incidents. The IVDS was established by Interpeace and the Network for Peace, Cohesion, and Heritage Trust (NEPCOH) and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO). Francis and Johnstone embarked on their journey towards reconciliation by attending the IVDS meeting at St. Abraham's Catholic Church in Endo on 16 March 2024, with a mix of anticipation and unease.

Inside the church, Francis and Johnstone confronted their past, burdened by regrets and unspoken apologies. Despite their history of conflicts, they glimpsed a flicker of the bond that once united them. As they embraced, memories resurfaced, revealing a connection that went beyond tribe and ideology. In that decisive moment, they rediscovered their shared humanity amidst the aftermath of conflict, becoming symbols of hope in a landscape scarred by division and distrust.

Expressing his gratitude for the encounter, Francis shared, "As a farmer from Kasegei, I have fond memories of working the land alongside my dear friend Johnstone. We had plans to cultivate maize and then venture into tomatoes.  Conflict separated us like heaven and earth. Today, through this village dialogue initiative, we have been reunited, and I am overjoyed. I intend to return home and discuss with my family and elders how we can move forward together." Addressing Johnstone directly, Francis added, "Jonathan, my friend, I look forward to the day when we can once again work side by side on our farms. During the years we were apart, I often thought of you and your well-being. I even prayed to God that we would meet again. My prayers have been answered, and heaven and earth have been reunited."

Today, Francis and Jonathan stand united as members of the Mikeu-Sagat IVDS committee, committed to rebuilding the bridges destroyed by hatred and animosity. Their journey is one of forgiveness and reconciliation, showcasing the transformative power of dialogue and understanding.

In the Kerio Valley, Interpeace and NEPCOH are establishing IVDS to mediate conflicts and prevent further escalations between clans. IVDS has also been set up in various corridors in Kenya's North Rift and North-eastern regions. For instance, in the North-eastern region, Sala-Jabi 2 Corridor has four dialogue spaces, the Banisa Corridor has five dialogue spaces, and the Takaba Corridor has four. The Kerio Valley's Mikeu-Sakat IVDS is the first IVDS structure being created in the North Rift region, and the team is foreseeing the creation of over 20 spaces in the coming months. These spaces, as well as other peacebuilding structures in the regions, such as the Conflict Monitoring Committees (CMCs), serve as platforms for open conversations, conflict resolution, and trust-building among diverse communities, making significant contributions to the region's sustainable peacebuilding efforts.

Hassan Ismail, the Country Representative of Interpeace in Kenya, emphasises the importance of locally driven solutions, stating: "Interpeace strives to create and execute community-driven solutions. Through regular meetings and sustained dialogue in IVDS, local communities empower themselves to work towards long-lasting peace and reconciliation. IVDS demonstrates the power of grassroots initiatives in building a brighter future."

The reunion of Francis and Johnstone symbolises hope and resilience in the face of adversity, resonating with those impacted by conflict and offering hope during challenging times. Despite the challenges they encounter, their unwavering dedication to promoting peace in the Kerio Valley motivates them to engage in dialogue and community efforts, one village at a time.

Learn more about Interpeace's holistic approach to building sustainable peace. Click ici to access our "Livelihoods for Peace" paper, which explores how fair access to livelihood opportunities, social cohesion, and inclusive development are essential for lasting peace in communities like the one featured in this story.

Cultivating unity and peace in Burundi through reforestation initiatives

In Burundi, the impacts of climate change have been widespread. With a surface area of less than 30,000 km² and a population of nearly 12 million, the depletion of limited land and natural resources has been an issue for many years, and it is becoming increasingly more.  Deforestation has rapidly cleared large areas across Burundi, depleting a major source of firewood, timber for construction, and protection against soil erosion. Recognising the urgency, the government launched a national reforestation campaign called "Ewe Burundi Urambaye"(Let's Reforest Burundi) in 2018. Although the initiative successfully planted almost 45 million tree seedlings in its first year, reversing decades of rampant deforestation requires sustained and collaborative efforts.

In the Giteranyi commune, Muyinga province, residents have witnessed firsthand the localised effects of environmental degradation. Just ten hills had any tree cover left, leaving the rural area vulnerable to erosion, landslides, and loss of arable land. Community priority-setting sessions facilitated by the “Synergy for Peace III project,” which seeks to facilitate inclusive and collaborative livelihood and social cohesion initiatives, identified environmental protection as a top priority.  

In July 2023, the Giteranyi community group, a diverse collective of stakeholders, came together to make a significant impact. They identified a hill (Shoza) and planted over 10,000 seedlings, a testament to their shared commitment to environmental protection. The participation of both young and old in the reforestation work underscored the unity and shared responsibility in the community. As one participant remarked, "This activity benefits the whole community. By protecting this hill, I'm protecting the people around me and the environment of Burundi."

Beyond environmental benefits, reforestation addressed a driver of potential conflict in the region. Without tree cover, communities are left vulnerable to erosion and landslides. This can spark disputes over land ownership and access to increasingly scarce natural resources like firewood for heating and cooking.

"We are not often aware that climate change is a major contributor to land conflicts, which is why we need to support this reforestation project," explained Floride Nduwayezu, the administrator of Giteranyi commune, who instructed local residents to protect the seedlings.

For the Giteranyi administrator, allowing further deforestation risks escalating resource conflicts. “If the environment is not safeguarded in Giteranyi commune, there is a great risk of major community conflicts due to competition for natural resources such as firewood, trees for building houses,” emphasised Floride.

Further deforestation risks escalating resource conflicts in Giteranyi, where women heavily rely on firewood for household tasks and trees to support crop fields. Renewing these critical resources motivated the reforestation effort’s community participation. Local leaders and other stakeholders like the permanent dialogue group (PDG) of Giteranyi have championed protecting Shoza hill’s new trees.

The Shoza hill reforestation sets an example for other Burundian communities to follow. By taking collective action to address environmental issues, they can strengthen social cohesion while reducing drivers of potential conflict over scarce natural resources.

 

Learn more about Interpeace's holistic approach to building sustainable peace. Click ici to access our "Livelihoods for Peace" paper, which explores how fair access to livelihood opportunities, social cohesion, and inclusive development are essential for lasting peace in communities like the one featured in this story.

 

 

Community-based Participatory Framework for the Assessment of Resilience in Rwanda

 

The Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE), in collaboration with Interpeace has released new research titled: a community-based Participatory Framework for the Assessment of Resilience in Rwanda. These findings were presented, along with insightful recommendations, during a stakeholder engagement event held on 8 March 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda.

Paving the way for inclusive governance in Kasaï

 

The Inclusive Governance for Peace programme in Kasaï Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), implemented by Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC) in partnership with Interpeace, has made significant progress in empowering women's and youth leadership.

For a long time, women in the region have been marginalised and their decision-making authority limited. However, a new era of inclusivity and equality is emerging, providing women with more opportunities and rights.

In 2019, Munda Tshonga Mado, a 47-year-old mother of six, was a homemaker. By 2020, she had become the deputy of the "Mawika" district in Kamonia, Kasaï Province. Her leadership, characterised by democracy, inclusivity, and dedication to peace, has earned her recognition and appreciation in her role as district head.

Since 2021, Mado has been participating in peacebuilding events, including training sessions for community-based organisations. APC and Interpeace organised these sessions, which focused on conflict analysis, positive conflict transformation through mediation and dialogue. Women like Mado found a platform to reclaim their voices and assert their roles in the public sphere.

Sharing her story, Mado says: "During this time, we attended several training sessions with local authorities. One day, the chief of Kamonia district, Job Kayimbo, approached me to take on the role of chief of the Vatican locality, one of those in his district. Shortly thereafter, a conflict arose between the incumbent chief of the Mawika district and his deputy. Faced with the difficulty of reconciling them, the mayor of the rural commune of Kamonia, who also appreciated my work, appointed me as chief of the Mawika district, consisting of five localities."

Mado's appointment as the chief of the Mawika district, a position previously considered unattainable for women, shattered stereotypes and highlighted the potential of women to lead in traditionally male-dominated fields. She actively participated in peacebuilding activities for the project "Renforcer la gouvernance pour la paix en République démocratique du Congo," funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

In 2022, Mado's journey took a significant step forward with the launch of APC's project aimed at enhancing women's leadership. She actively participated in workshops and training sessions along with her peers. These sessions covered various topics including women's leadership, UN Resolutions 1325 and 2325, and the factors that contribute to women's exclusion from decision-making processes. As a result of these efforts, a positive shift in attitudes occurred, with male participants now advocating for women's inclusion in positions of authority within peace mechanisms and political arenas.

During a workshop on peace governance in November 2023, Clément Yaudiko, the President of Civil Society in Kamonia, expressed his support for Mado's development initiatives. However, Yaudiko also emphasised the importance of addressing cultural barriers that hinder the empowerment of women and the progress of young people in the Kasai area.

Mado faced discrimination from male politicians, leading to a limited number of votes cast against her in the 2023 election. Undeterred, she maintained her resolve and decided to contest as a national deputy for her party, the Union pour la Nation Congolaise (UNC), in the Kamonia electoral district. Despite falling short of a majority in votes, Mado persisted and showcased her dedication to the political arena by actively pursuing mentorship opportunities.

Her journey reached its pinnacle when she was elected as the president of l’Union des Jeunes pour le Développement Intégral de Kamonia (UJDIK), showcasing her ability to mobilise at the grassroots level and effectively engage with the community. At present, Mado collaborates with local leaders, providing mentoring and guidance.

Mado's journey serves as a reminder of the importance of gender equality and women's empowerment in Kasaï. It advocates for inclusive governance in peace-related matters and highlights the province's untapped potential to fully utilise the capabilities of its women. This paves the way for a future where women can lead with confidence and conviction.

Comprendre et prévenir la violence politique en Côte d’Ivoire (PREDIA 2021 – 2023)

Une vidéo qui retrace les activités menées dans le cadre du projet PREDIA en Côte d’Ivoire, œuvrant pour comprendre les facteurs qui rendent une zone vulnérable à la violence politique et pour la mise en place de Cadres de Collaboration outillés agissant en prévention de cette violence.