Several thousand people marched in Burundi this week to officially launch the We Can campaign in the country, aiming to end violence against women.
Diane Mpinganzima, the head of Oxfam in Burundi, said violence against women is a growing problem: “This is happening mostly in the home. It stops women from making the contribution that they could make in developing the country. We are saying today that We Can end all violence against women.”
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Local government officials and activists were also among the speakers, while drummers and traditional dancers entertained the crowds. The march began in the hills outside the town of Ilenja, ending in the main stadium where huge crowds lined the mud banks outside.
There the Minister for National Solidarity, Human Rights and Gender formally launched the campaign by lighting candles.
The We Can campaign works by recruiting ordinary people as “change-makers” – they commit to help end violence against women by influencing the behaviour and attitudes of their family, friends and neighbours. Each change-maker commits to directly influencing at least ten other people.
Alice Harushimana coordinates the We Can campaign in Burundi: “We started organising at the beginning of the year and now we have 795 change-makers. Our aim is to have over 3,000 by the end of this year. We can do this working with the 120 organisations that have joined the campaign.”
The change-makers come from all walks of life. During the launch people signed a banner committing to ending violence against women. Both men and women, including policemen, traditional leaders and youth, signed up.
Change-makers told how they’ve managed to change lives so far – one man told how he used to beat his wife, before he got involved with the campaign. Now he helps persuade other men to stop beating their wives too.
The We Can campaign in Burundi is supported by Oxfam and led by ACORD, a long-standing Oxfam partner. The campaign is also running in Kenya, Uganda, DR Congo and Tanzania.