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Empowered Women and Youth

9 juni 2021

The impact of women’s empowerment

  • Capacity strengthening  activities implemented by EVC for women and youth varied by country and by group though they often included training and information on political rights and responsibilities, planning, communication, leadership, literacy, lobby and advocacy, networking, women’s rights (as well as specifically from an Islamic perspective), gender-based violence, public speaking, political participation, social accountability.
  • Savings groups  (i.e., village savings and loans associations, artisan groups) were a key approach toward greater women’s economic and social empowerment in Burundi, Pakistan, and Sudan. Women took on leadership roles within the savings groups, resulting in increased confidence to speak out, be heard in their communities and even challenge social and cultural norms. With greater awareness of their rights and options for redress when rights are violated, women and girls were better able to claim their rights on issues critical to them.
  • Lack of education and illiteracy are key barriers to public participation and even participation in community groups. Therefore, trainings in literacy especially were significant not only in women’s ability to engage productively in their groups, but also to lead women toward taking more active roles in their communities.

The women that became Chief

Sylvie Twagirayezu, aged forty-two, became Chief of Kibimba in 2020, a hill community in Burundi. She lives with her husband, their five children and four orphaned children. Sylvie came into contact with the Every Voice Counts (EVC) programme through her Village Savings and Loans Association, of which she is President. Sylvie and other women from her community were trained in women’s leadership and women’s role in decision-making.

As a result of the EVC training, Sylvie was inspired to run for public office as Chief of her community. She explains:

“EVC really opened my eyes. With the knowledge I got from the programme, I felt the need to run in the 2020 elections. I saw the struggles that women in my community were facing. They had difficulties raising their problems in front of men, and ended up coming to me, while I was not an elected official. I wanted to represent them, to be a bridge between them and the authorities.”

She continues:

“It was not easy at first. The men who were already in elected positions doubted I could be a good leader, arguing that I wouldn’t give up my business, or that I have a toddler and I would not have time. I almost gave up. But the women in the savings groups supported me all the way and I received 86% of the votes.”

Since becoming Chief, Sylvie has already identified the most vulnerable in her community and helped them with housing, as well as helped make the roads more passable. She also represents eleven hill communities through a government programme fighting gender-based violence.

She concludes:

“I would encourage other women to get involved in associations and to get elected into decision-making bodies. I believe that when we are more numerous, there will be less violence against women.”

“Now women are no longer afraid to be part of decision-making bodies”

Sylvie Twagirayezu

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