International Women's Day in Burundi: Women in Agricultural Development and Environmental Protection


Female staff of the Ministry in charge of gender presenting a traditional dance number
Female staff of the Ministry in charge of gender presenting a traditional dance number at the International Women's Day celebrations in Burundi on 8th March 2022. Photo: UN Women/Odette Kwizera

Burundi celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022 with the patronage of Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye. The theme of the event was "Women at the center of agricultural development and environmental protection." This was chosen to encourage Burundian women to pursue their contribution to the agricultural sector and protecting the environment, according to the Minister of National Solidarity, Social Affairs, Human Rights and Gender, Imelde Sabushimike. ''Agricultural development cannot be a reality if the main actors in these sectors are not in the right place,'' she said. She called on all stakeholders in this sector to ensure that women are represented and play a full role, particularly in agricultural research, production of selected seeds, creation of food industries, and phytosanitary products.  

United Nations Resident Coordinator Damien Mama spoke of the importance of making more resilient production and consumption systems where women play a central role. He thanked the head of state for multiple initiatives in favor of women's empowerment, mentioning the recent establishment of the Women's Investment and Development Bank (WIDB). ‘’This is a better way to empower women economically in this country," he said. He said the UN is committed to gender equality and gender mainstreaming in climate change programmes. Damien Mama also called on Burundian women to work hand in hand with men to achieve gender equality. 

President  Ndayishimiye said this Women's Day was a moment to celebrate Burundian women who had already demonstrated their bravery in many ways. He invited everyone to support women, but without deviating from good Burundian practices and ancestral values that have always held a special place for women. ‘’In pre-colonial times, it was women who chose the heir to the throne, at a time when, in other countries, women were still demonstrating for the right to vote,'' he said. He warned men who commit domestic violence, polygamists, and women who break up homes to immediately stop this "unworthy and illegal" behavior, at the risk of incurring sanctions. He then expressed the wish that "gender offices" be set up in all ministries so gender can be taken into account in programmes, plans, and policies.

President Ndayishimiye did not fail to touch on women's inheritance rights, an area still governed by customary law and under a traditional patriarchal and patrilineal system. He reopened the debate, instructing the newly elected Bureau of the National Women's Forum (FNF) to reflect and lead the issue debate.  

The ceremonies, which took place at the Ivyizigiro stadium in Rumonge province, were attended by the country's high authorities, including First Lady Angeline Ndayishimiye, Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza, former First Ladies of Burundi, several members of the government and parliament, representatives of the United Nations system, the diplomatic and consular corps, and thousands of men and women from all sectors.

After the commemorative ceremonies, members of the Ministry of Justice, with the support of UN Women, visited women and girl  prisoners in Murembwe prison to give them dignity kits and advise on future prospects.