The ‘We Can' campaign (translated as ‘Nous Pouvouns!' in French is a joint-program launched by ACORD and its partners in Burundi in 2010. It is tackling the serious issue of domestic violence. Before launching in Burundi, the program brought about positive results in various countries across the world, such as in Nepal and Kenya. The working method is to agree on a plan with the partners, and then apply local implementation and actively involve the families in the change.
‘We Can' is training the partners as well as the local people about the origins and contributors to these kinds of attitudes. Like the campaign's motto says, "Le changement commence avec moi", the change starts with me; Nous Pouvons challenges everyone to take another stand on this matter.
Other inter-linked issue discussed in the trainings is rape, whether it happens out on the streets or at home. The existing attitudes do not encourage change in this matter either. There is a common belief according to which a girl who wears provocative (short, tight) clothes is almost asking to become raped. The female sexuality is still a taboo in Burundi, and it is brought in the discussion only in cases of rape, prostitution e.g. other negative topics. There is another Burundian proverb, "Yause aba yemeye" ("for a Burundian girl no means yes"), indicating the lack of appreciation when it comes to women's right to choose their partners and giving the men the superiority over the women.
‘We Can' concentrates on six types of domestic violence: physical, psychological, economic, work violence, sexual harassment and structural violence in a country level. These types of violence stem from various reasons, such as the social context in Burundi, according to which domestic violence is accepted and people often feel powerless against the phenomenon. It is commonly believed that faithfulness from women's side entitles the men to commit to domestic violence. Additionally, women are generally seen weaker in both physical and economic terms. It is usually the husband that is in charge of the household economy, which leaves the wives with very little access to wealth.
Domestic violence is very deep-rooted in the minds of Burundians because of tradition and prevalence. There is a Kirundi proverb "Gushinga Amashiga", meaning that you have to beat your wife on the first day of marriage to gain her appreciation. When the local youth in the training were asked if there was anyone who had not witnessed domestic violence, no one raised their hands. Unfortunately they are not only the men that agree on the existence of domestic violence, but the women often silently accept the exercise of it. In this culture the wives are expected to please the husbands in all occasions, even if the husband happens to be pleased when beating his wife. One clear injustice appears when looking at the share of household chores that very often fall completely on the shoulders of the wife. But again, it is not only the men avoiding household chores, but also the women doubting their husbands' ability to carry them out successfully. These attitudes are so entrenched that it will take a long time to break them.
'Nous Pouvouns' therefore offers enhancing education and communication as tools to tackle these deep-rooted social injustices. Girls are often not seen worth education, especially in the poorest villages where some of the families cannot send all of their many children to school. Another essential feature is to increase women's economic independence from the men. By education, empowerment and change of attitudes there is a real opportunity for this campaign to gain very positive results.
Blog by: Riikka Leppänen21 August 2012