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Published on 2 December 2020

After Butoyi (not her real name) from Nyanza Lac in southern Burundi was abandoned by her husband, her two brothers-in-law tried to evict her from her small farm. The family would have been left homeless and destitute but for a Christian Aid-supported peacebuilding project.

Our local partner CNEB (National Council of Churches of Burundi) trains community-based peacebuilders to prevent violence and resolve disputes within communities as well as within and between families. Butoyi told us her story:  

"I argued a lot with my husband. He married a second wife and was always beating me and telling me to go back to my parents. He told me that I should leave the house so that the second wife could get a room.

"Our community leader, Jacqueline is a peacebuilder so I told her about my problems.

Image credits and information i
Butoyi (left) and her three children would have been evicted from their home and small farm were it not for the peacebuilding done by Jacqueline Mpawenayo (right) who was trained by Christian Aid’s local partner, CNEB. Credit: Christian Aid/Dave Thomas
Evelyne and Jacqueline

Jacqueline asked my husband, what would happen to his three children if their mother left home but this didn’t change his mind. Things were made worse by the second wife who was pouring oil on the fire. She said that as long as I was there, my husband didn’t care about her. In the end, my husband left both of us and we haven’t seen him since.

Butoyi’s difficulties were far from over. Her brothers-in-law took issue with her remaining on the family’s land and wanted to evict her. Butoyi had no choice but to again reach out to Jacqueline for further support.

Butoyi said: “His two brothers part-owned our land and they told me I had to leave so that they could sell the land.

“I told them that I had nowhere to go, nowhere to take my children but they didn’t care.

“I decided to go back to see Jacqueline to ask if she could help. She pleaded with them to think of the impact this would have on their brother’s children.

“The whole situation was very distressing, and I was becoming mentally unwell with all the stress. The pressure was just too much.

In the end, one of the brothers-in-law was persuaded to drop the idea of selling the plot of land. “This led to arguments between the two brothers but Jacqueline didn’t give up, and kept holding firm until she managed to also convince the second brother to let me keep the land.

Butoyi said: “Jacqueline really was a God-send. My relationship with my brothers-in-law is now much better.

I thank Christian Aid and their local partner for their help. There are other women living in remote areas going through what I went through and I hope they can be helped too.

Christian Aid’s peacebuilding work is funded by Irish Aid, the Irish government’s programme for overseas aid. Its main focus is to resolve land disputes which arise when Burundian refugees return to the country after many years in Tanzania.

Christian Aid has been working in Burundi since 1995 where we deliver programmes through 15 local partner organisations, in four key areas:

  • To reduce land ownership disputes within and between families.
  • To tackle food insecurity and malnutrition, and to boost farm incomes.
  • To improve healthcare, support family planning and tackle HIV infection and stigma.
  • Through village saving and loan schemes, to offer credit and training, empowering women and young people to start businesses.