ROUND TABLE ON THE PLACE OF BURUNDIAN WOMEN IN DECISION-MAKING STRUCTURES
The Beijing Platform for Action affirms that women have the same right as men to participate in the management of public affairs and can contribute to redefine political priorities and to be included in political programs. Today, in Burundi, the number of women in public office is more or less considerable compared to past years, and this trend should be maintained because more women in decision-making positions will help strengthen policies and legislation in favor of true gender equality, even if challenges still persist in improving the situation of Burundian women.
APDH always relies on these circumstances to carry out its actions in these areas by promoting exchanges and discussions on the subject that stimulate holistic development. This round table which took place on March 31, 2021 is part of this perspective. From the members and staff of the APDH to the representatives of religious groups, from the representatives of political parties to the National Women's Forum, from the members of the ‘CDFC’ to the communal administrators, from the governor's advisors to the representatives of local groups, all of them were invited and present at this meeting.
The presenter first went back to the texts of the Burundian laws on the equality of persons and the representativeness of women which, with gaps, is limited on the figures of representations in the national assembly and the senate. She also went back to the 1325th UN resolution on representativeness which Burundi has ratified. Examples were given of the rate of representation: 37.4% at the level of the National Assembly, at the level of the ministries, out of 18 governors, only 3 are women, 34.45% at the level of the communal administration. In the most recent decree on the appointment of senior executives, only 39% of women are represented. At the level of school management, the representation rate is also very low, 15.2% in the education system in Ngozi province. On the rate of representation in Ngozi province in the communal political structures, the representative of the women's forum also gave some figures on which the participants debated.
The participants had the opportunity to express themselves on the given topic. Some found that women are themselves at the origin of the low rate of representation and that they must do more in their claims and actions while others found that this is due to the lack of understanding and the non-respect of human rights given that women and men are all first and foremost human beings. Others believe that the lack of means for the positions that require them makes women be discouraged to run or to be elected. All of them, however, mentioned the barriers of cultural stereotypes that prevent women from acting spontaneously. The others mentioned the fact that women in Burundi do not like to elect women like themselves, that they have to develop self-esteem first.
Women who have previously held political positions in decision-making structures shared their experiences and much made mention of the great qualities that women leaders must embody: self-esteem, working with dedication and the spirit of humanity and closeness to their subjects (according to one woman and former member of the National Assembly). Another woman, most recently the administrator of the commune of Gashikanwa, testified to the need to have and nurture the will to be elected to represent others as a woman, even if it is almost always difficult. She lamented the fact that among the people who predicted that she would not be able to govern, there were women who felt the same way and were unwilling to support her instead. For her, patience, collaboration and persistence are crucial, and prayer must be the weapon to better serve as a woman in this Burundian society. She ended by encouraging young women to understand that they are really capable of what men do and for men to help in this journey but with good faith.
The recommendations of the participants are, among others, the accompaniment of women so that they get more and more involved and get elected and represented, to plead in their favor so that the leaders take into consideration the cause and the setting up of their representative structures (where they do not exist, especially at the hill level) and to extend or reinforce the laws of implementation of the representativeness (where they already exist) Participants also recommended to sensitize men on the eradication of stereotypes that make them block the advancement of the cause in society, because according to the testimonies of one of the current communal administrators, the hills led by women are more and more models.