Microfinance Opportunities in Burundi

Burundi

Like many war-torn countries, women in Burundi remain the most vulnerable. After 13 years of civil war, women have been ostracised from the country’s financial community and occupy a mere 28% of the private sector.

In 2008 Lifeline Energy worked with internationally reputed organisations CARE International and Microfinance Opportunities to help change this through the Ishaka: Courage for the Future initiative. The project empowered more than 6,180 poverty-stricken girls and youth from the ages of 14 to 22 in peri-urban and rural provinces of Bujumbura and Gitega.

According to the UN Development Fund for Women, Burundi’s political struggles have had a “severe impact” on women through the “disruption of social and economic development.” Coupled with discriminatory laws and a patriarchal system, women are more susceptible to early marriage, sexual exploitation and early pregnancy.

Chala, a 16-year-old Burundian, is an example of how the country’s instability has affected its female population. In an interview with CARE International – an organisation that has been active in Burundi since the early 90s – Chala said the father of her child  “initially gave her food.”  However, after she became pregnant he left, resulting in her family refusing to accept her back home.

As Burundian women receive only 1.9% of loans made by commercial banks, the Ishaka project helps girls who live in households and are heads of households to access safe savings and financial resources.

Our Lifeline Radios

Lifeline Energy’s solar-powered and wind-up radios played an integral part of this initiative.  Groups of up to 40 listeners each were able to access the financial literacy and life skills broadcasts.  Radio ownership amongst the girls was practically zero.

The project was run through village savings and loans groups – also known as Solidarity Groups. Each group developed rules and regulations that met the particular savings and loans needs. As the fund grew, members took loans to invest in income-generating and social welfare activities. All reimbursements were made with interest, which allowed the fund to grow.