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

May 22, 2024


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.