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