Turi Kumwe (We Are Together) in Burundi
Local organizations committed to strengthening the level of engagement by Burundian youth in peacebuilding opportunities, as well as improve their economic opportunities.
Equipping local leaders and organizations to spread peace, increase safety, and improve economic security.
Connecting at-risk youth to activities to engender conflict resolution and peacebuilding.
Burundi is a young nation with two-thirds of the population under the age of 25. After the end of its 10-year civil war, Burundi continues to face challenges in establishing long-term peace and stability within its borders. Ethnic divisions between Hutu and Tutsi populations, coupled with political and electoral unrest, poverty and land conflict, continue to plague efforts to establish social cohesion, and few economic opportunities for young people put them at a higher risk of engaging in political violence. With limited opportunities for youth to develop a positive sense of purpose and mutual understanding, young people have been drawn into local conflicts through political groups
The People-to-People Reconciliation Program, known locally as “Turi Kumwe” (“We Are Together”), strengthens the level of engagement by Burundian youth in peacebuilding opportunities, as well as improve their economic opportunities.
Through peacebuilding and violence prevention work, Counterpart helps young people begin to change their perceptions of the “other,” reduce “us-versus-them” mentalities, and build mutual understanding. Counterpart helps young people of diverse political, economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds understand that they share common challenges and appreciate how diversity and inclusion can improve targeted development outcomes that would benefit all of them. Inter-commune exchanges further facilitate relationship-building among youth outside of their traditional interactions that forge resilient social ties to lay the foundations for sustainable inter-communal reconciliation.
Counterpart’s interventions will also help young people improve their pursuit of economic opportunities through strengthening connections with village savings and loan associations (VSLAs), increasing their sense of purpose, solidarity between members from different backgrounds, and contribution to their families’ and communities’ well-being.
These interventions are designed to reduce youth competition and risk of participating in destructive activities or seeking financial support from violent groups. VSLAs also provide young people safe spaces for interaction between diverse groups around a shared objective, supporting broader community peacebuilding, mutual understanding, and reconciliation.
The project helps improve the livelihoods and peacebuilding skills of youth and their enabling environments, thereby reducing the risk of youth becoming involved in conflict and contributing to peace and stability in Burundi.
Funder: United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
TURI KUMWE ASSISTS RURAL WOMEN THROUGH ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES
Clémence Ntamirukiro is a young woman from Gisuru, Ruyigi Province, just across the border from Tanzania. Her participation in a Turi Kumwe-supported Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) assisted her economically and socially and sets her up for a brighter future.
Clémence explains: “After I obtained my secondary school diploma, I struggled to find something to do. I did not find a job and I didn’t have capital to start a business. I got married and had one child. My husband sometimes teased me that I was bringing nothing to the household, that my diploma has no value, and I felt bad about it.”
In April, Clémence was selected to participate in the Turi Kumwe project and joined a VSLA. When savings and loans activities started, she eagerly requested a credit. “I got a loan of 21,000 BIF (USD 10.40)and I used it to buy dry corn in Tanzania, which I resold in Burundi for 72,000 BIF (USD 35.65), with a profit of about 30,000 BIF (USD 14.86). I’ve been doing this for two months and my capital is now of 60,000 BIF (USD 29.71). The project has also helped me to be conscious about how to manage these funds thanks to the training we have received”, states the 29-year-old. “Since I started my business, my husband has stopped teasing me. I feel valued in my household and my husband now consults me about the management of the household resources. This project really contributes to the empowerment of rural women, and I am grateful to be part of it.”
Turi Kumwe supports over 2,000 youth – half of which women – to become economically independent, thereby reducing a source of conflict in communities and creating an environment supporting reconciliation. The 66 VSLAs set up by the project not only provide access to basic financial services but also bring together diverse – sometimes opposing – youth around a common interest. Soft skills training sessions integrated to the VSLA meetings allow them to understand and manage conflicts and break stereotypes that contribute to the cycle of violence. The project also aims to increase support for gender equality through specific training sessions but also modelling women in leadership positions in the VSLAs and as successful entrepreneurs.
TURI KUMWE SUPPORTS MARGINALIZED GROUPS PARTICIPATION IN PEACEBUILDING AND COMMUNITY LIFE
Amina Girukwishaka, 26 years old, is a member of a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) recently set up in Nyamurenza commune by the Turi Kumwe project. As a single mother and person with albinism, Amina has doubly suffered from marginalization. She has lived in isolation and despair, but Turi Kumwe is starting to change this.
The Turi Kumwe project, implemented by Counterpart International and its local partner Jumelage Jeunesse pour le Bien Être des enfants et des jeunes (JJB), aims to strengthen youth’s participation in peacebuilding and enhance economic opportunities for youth in an inclusive manner. The project strives to include marginalized groups in peacebuilding efforts, community governance, and economic opportunities.
Within this framework, Turi Kumwe selected Amina to not only join a VSLA but also attend a two-day training session meant to boost the confidence of individuals from marginalized groups as well as afford them skills to support their full participation in community life and project activities.
Amina explains: “I had a very difficult childhood because I was born with albinism. Children taunted me, in school some would refuse to sit beside me and some even called me ‘a prey to murder.’ In this region, there are sorcery beliefs that killing, raping, or using body parts of albinos can bring riches or heal people. Some people started to follow me, and my parents and brothers needed to constantly protect me so that I could attend school and church. It was very stressful and shameful, but I persevered because I did well in school. One day when I was in 7th grade, upon returning from school, a group of men raped me, and it resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. My life became even more of a nightmare, and I abandoned school. Then I had a second child. I am unemployed. To feed my children, I work for neighbors in their field in exchange for some food or a bit of money, and sometimes my parents help me. The children’s fathers refuse to contribute something.”
After attending the training session, Amina has gained the conviction that even if others discriminate her, she needs to give herself value. She has found the strength to overcome her fear and has actively attended the first sessions of her VSLA about the association’s methodology. Amina is committed to participating fully in the VSLAs and will use her membership as a path to improve her and her children’s lives. “I am starting to enjoy life again,” she says. Amina is eager to receive entrepreneurship trainings so she can develop a business plan and obtain a loan from her VSLA. Starting her own small business would be a major step towards independence, self-confidence, and earning respect from her community. The project will deliver these trainings next quarter, followed by microfinance loans and a business plans competition by the end of 2021, to support youth like Amina’s access to livelihoods opportunities.