• Mon. Apr 15th, 2024

Women leaders are essential in the fight against GBV


Apr 3, 2024

BUJUMBURA April 1st (ABP) – Léoncie Nshimirimana is a woman leader active in the fight against gender-based violence (GBV). Aged around sixty, married and mother of 8 children, she lives on Kirema hill in the Kayanza commune and province. Around the 2000s, during the period of hostilities experienced by Burundi, that province in northern Burundi, close to Kibira, recorded many victims of GBV and especially sexual violence.

After escaping an attempted rape during that period, in 2004, Mrs. Nshimirimana created the association “Murekerisoni” which means “Preserve our dignity”. The members of that organization are scattered throughout all the communes of the province of Kayanza. Since 2004, that organization, which was born on the initiative of Ms. Nshimirimana and who chairs it, has supported victims by referring them to the SERUKA Center which is located in Bujumbura city.

During an interview she gave to ABP on February 11, 2024, that Burundian civil society actress indicated that her organization also helps victims of GBV by showing them the way to denounce the perpetrators of that crime so that they can be brought to justice.

Nshimirimana also notes that cases of rape and physical violence are the cases of GBV most received by the association “Murekerisoni, specifying that girls and women are more numerous than men and boys. For victims of GBV who died and left children, Léoncie Nshimirimana, through the activities of Murekerisoni takes care of their orphans. For the case of women who were turned away by their husbands for having been raped, Mrs. Nshimirimana plays the role of mediates between repressed women and their husbands so that those women can return to their homes. When mediation fails, she looks for a house to rent for those women.

Thanks to the support she receives from partners through the Murekerisoni association, Ms. Nshimirimana organizes awareness sessions for women in her locality on their rights and on the fight against GBV in their surroundings.

Regarding the consequences linked to her activism, Mrs. Nshimirimana is sometimes threatened by the families of the perpetrators of GBV who are prosecuted by the courts. However, she does not disarm. She continues to wage a merciless fight against that social evil.

Léoncie Nshimirimana has even already won awards from the Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender, in 2019 and 2021. It was on the occasion of the 16 days of activism to combat violence against women and girls.

Mrs. Aline Nzikoruriho from Cuhiro hill in Kayanza commune and province, aged 42, was a victim of GBV. She was helped by Ms. Nshimirimana: “I was legally married to a man from Karurusi hill in Gatara commune (Kayanza province).

                                                      Mrs. Aline Nzikoruriho

We had 4 children together and lived together for a long time. Subsequently, our family was hit by poverty to such an extent that in 2015, my husband decided to leave home to look for work for a whole year. During that entire period of his absence, I did everything to provide for the needs of my children because my husband did not send me any money. I received financial support from the association of which I was a member. That allowed me to buy a pig and rabbits. With that breeding, I was able to obtain manure for my property.

When he returned in 2016 in just one week, my husband had already sold almost all the family possessions including pigs and rabbits without my knowledge. He used the money for his own needs; he would come home drunk and mistreat me overnight. I complained to the local notables who asked him to return everything he sold, but to no avail. I finally took the option of returning to my biological family with my children and a one-month pregnancy. The matter was brought before the courts. In revenge, he met me at my biological family’s house and broke my arms and my right eye with a machete. Mrs. Nshimirimana and my family took me to Bujumbura to the SERUKA center.

I also benefited from medical assistance from the association supporting vulnerable women and children (AFEV).

Four days later, he was arrested by the police before being brought to court and sentenced to 5 years in prison and 2 million Fbu in compensation. To my unpleasant surprise, he was released after 3 years and didn’t even give me anything in compensation. Currently, I still constitute a burden on my biological family as I have become disabled. I can’t do anything, despite medical operations; I was left with only one eye and my arms are no longer functional,” she testified.

According to the president of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (CNIDH) Dr. Sixte Vigny Nimuraba, GBV constitutes one of the most serious human rights violations. The latter have serious consequences on the lives of victims and on social harmony, he said.

The president of the CNIDH indicates that the role of women leaders is essential, especially in the popularization of law number 1/13 of September 22, 2016 on the prevention, protection of victims and repression of GBV. Women leaders must take the lead in raising awareness among the Burundian population.

According to that human rights defender, women and girls should systematically denounce any case of GBV and attempt at amicable settlement as well as the inaction of actors in the criminal justice chain. Women parliamentarians should initiate bills to protect women’s rights.

According to Emérence Bucumi, President of the National Women’s Forum (FNF), GBV is omnipresent in Burundian society, among educated and uneducated people, the rich and the poor. Women leaders have a big role to play in helping others by encouraging them to avoid certain behaviors that can cause GBV. She gave the example of a man who may mistreat his wife because of another woman or a girl who is his concubine.

Women leaders educate others about their rights, and how to strengthen their economic power.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender Mr. Ildephonse Majambere confirmed the existence of GBV in Burundi. He specified that during the year 2023, the Humura center in Gitega received 1,359 cases of victims for all forms of GBV. For the period from August to December 2023, he said, the Humura center in Rumonge received 337 cases of GBV victims.

Mrs. Gloriose Nyakuza is one of the healthcare providers at the Seruka center. She indicated that that center provides holistic care by giving victims of GBV complete medical care with a complete kit. That center also provides psychological and legal support and legal assistance.

The majority of GBV victims who attend the SERUKA Center are women and girls, including minors under the age of 18 in proportions of 95%, and a percentage of 5% for men and boys. The number of GBV cases received by the SERUKA Center from 2017 to 2023 amounts to 8,389 for women and 495 for men and 6,142 for minors under 18 years old. Sexual violence comes first and physical violence, consisting largely of battered women, comes in second place.