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Mugisha’s transformation from a rebel to a community champion

30 mai, 2024

Mugisha Pascasie, a 39-year-old woman from Nyamisure in Gitega province, Burundi, has been the driving force behind the impact on her community. Her efforts have influenced how the community addresses its most pressing issues, particularly the problem of access to clean drinking water.

For a long time, Nyamisure has suffered from a shortage of safe water, resulting in health concerns and the spread of illnesses like cholera and diarrhoea, especially among children. The responsibility of fetching water primarily falls on women and girls, exposing them to risks, including harm and violence. The competition for limited resources has also created social tensions and conflicts, potentially leading to displacement and hindering children's education as they prioritise fetching water over attending school.

Mugisha's personal transformation has marked a turning point in addressing this urgent issue. As a former rebel who has undergone demobilisation, her community once feared her. Known for her forceful demeanour and lack of collaboration, she experienced a significant shift in perspective after participating in a training on citizen participation and community needs organised by Interpeace’s Synergies for Peace III programme in February 2023. The programme seeks to facilitate inclusive and collaborative livelihood and social cohesion initiatives.

Reflecting on her transformation, Mugisha acknowledges, "In the past, I used to be very brutal and relied on force to make others understand my point of view." However, the training opened her eyes to the power of collaboration, leading her to realise that "by working together, we can overcome any obstacle."

With her newfound collaborative approach, Mugisha has catalysed positive change in Nyamisure. Her efforts have garnered admiration and appreciation from her fellow residents. The local leader recognised her remarkable transformation: "She has transitioned from being forceful to embracing collaboration and humility." Mugisha's initial actions included summarising the training for her community and emphasising the importance of identifying problems and seeking solutions collectively. She then approached the local leader, who had also received training from the Synergies for Peace III programme, to discuss mobilising the community to install a fire hydrant. Together, they presented the project to the zone chief and sought support from the communal agronomist and administrator.

After identifying erosion and water scarcity as critical issues, they engaged all community members and partners, mobilising workforce and resources to address the challenges. Through their collaborative efforts, they successfully installed the operational fire hydrant, known as IGITO, effectively resolving the water scarcity issue in Nyamisure. Emmanuel Bacanamwo, a beneficiary of the newly restored water source, expressed gratitude for Mugisha's leadership and its positive impact on the community. Bacanamwo stated, "We warmly welcomed Mugisha's good deed; we were exhausted." Mugisha continues to work with the local population, and the hill head confirms, "Mugisha has truly transformed! Now she supports me in organising community development work."

Mugisha's journey is part of a larger transformation unfolding in Nyamisure. It is a testament to the increasing involvement of community members in addressing local needs. This shift underscores the importance of investing in community-driven solutions and promoting inclusive governance. Mugisha's transformation from a figure of fear to a respected leader is a powerful example of the resilience and potential within communities to overcome obstacles and pave the way for a better future for all.

In Nyamisure, the journey of a demobilised woman towards community empowerment has not only provided access to clean water but has also ignited a flame of hope. This illuminates the path towards a more inclusive and collaborative approach to addressing the challenges that bind a community together.