11 Inspirational Women From Burundi You Need to Know

Women and girls from Burundi sitting in the shade
Women and girls from Burundi sitting in the shade | © Stuart Price of AU-UN IST Photo / Flickr
Photo of Desire Nimubona
1 May 2018

Burundi has been blessed with female figures who have distinguished themselves in various fields: sport, academia, fashion, tourism, humanitarianism and music among others. Here are the profiles of Burundian women you need to know.

Lydia Nsekera (sport)

From 2004 until 2013, Lydia Nsekera was the president of the Burundi Football Federation. She was the first Burundian woman to hold this position. Later, she was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee and since 2013 has been a member of the FIFA Executive Committee. In the world of sport, she is ranked second behind the FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura by Forbes.

Lydia Nsekera speaking at the CSW59 Side Event - The Place of Sport for Women's Empowerment Post-2015 | © Ryan Brown of UN Women / Flickr

Marie Louise Sibazuri (literature)

Born in northern Burundi, Marie Louise Sibazuri is a teacher, playwright and director. Her plays have been performed throughout Burundi as well as in neighbouring countries. In the 1990s she refused an offer to work in the Burundian parliament after a shootout that killed her husband. Instead, she worked with the American NGO Search for Common Ground and helped to produce radio series that were broadcast by local radio stations, including Radio Isanganiro, which was then the Search for Common Ground radio partner. She later left Burundi to settle in Belgium. From there, she continued to follow news about life back home. She is currently a member of a team responsible for making an anthology of Burundian music.

Francine Niyonsaba (athletics)

Coming from a poor family in eastern Burundi in the province of Ruyigi, Francine Niyonsaba has gone on to become an icon in world athletics. She recently won the 800m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Birmingham 2018. She often ranks second after South Africa’s Caster Semenya, but is seen as a model in Burundi. She currently trains in the United States.

Francine Niyonsaba wins the 800m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships | © Filip Bossuyt / WikiCommons

Janvière Ndirahisha (higher education)

JanvièreNdirahisha holds a PhD in Science (Mathematics) and is one of the few people in Burundi to have studied extensively in science. As the former Director of the École Normale Supérieure in Burundi (ENS), she also served as Professor of Mathematics at the University of Burundi. She is known for her outspokenness and love of work, and has implemented reforms in primary, secondary and university education. In 2015, Ndirahisha arrived in the Government as Minister of Education and Scientific Research. She was able to launch the doctoral school in Burundi and initiated masters programmes in Burundi’s public and private universities. She also took the initiative to redeploy teachers who only worked for a few hours to work in other schools.

Khadja Nin (music and cinema)

A singer of Burundian origin, Khadja Nin has just joined the jury of the Cannes Film Festival. Nin rose to stardom in Burundi and across Africa in the 1990s, in the midst of the country’s civil war. Her song Sambolela is arguably her most famous song, played on a multitude of different media platforms, and her albums have been sold around the world.

Khadja Nin speaking on 'A Focus on Migrants Voices' at the IOM Council | © Eric Bridiers of U.S. Mission Photo / Flickr

Christine “Maman Dimanche” Ntahe (humanitarian)

Formerly a journalist and now retired, Ntahe initiated the local NGO “Good Gesture”. Every Sunday, Christine Ntahe fed more than 200 children living on the street and that is how she got her nickname “Sunday Mother”. She has been recognised as a woman of courage by the US State Department and despite her advanced age she continues to conduct radio programmes, voluntarily, for children.

Judicalelle Irakoze (activist)

Judicaelle Irakoze is a radical feminist and a passionate entrepreneur who believes in building a world where gender equity reigns. She is the owner of Abigaelle Closet, a fashion company, using fashion to empower lives. She is the founder and the current Executive Director at Choose Yourself, an organisation that contributes to the economic and social power of the youth, specifically young women.

Activist Judicalelle Irakoze speaking at an event | © Photo courtesy of Judicalelle Irakoze

Margueritte Barankitse (humanitarian)

The name of Margueritte Barankitse has been known in Burundi since the 1990s when she founded an orphanage during a time of crisis across the country. It has hosted hundreds of children from different families and from all backgrounds. Schools were also built in her province of Ruyigi, in eastern Burundi, as well as a reference hospital, particularly in the prosthesis break. Barankitse was the first to win the Aurora Price in 2016 for her humanitarian work. Subsequently, she appeared on stamps in Armenia where the event was held the following year.

Marguerite Barankitse as she appeared on the 2017 stamp of Armenia | © Haypost / WikiCommons

Nancy Ninette Mutoni (media and politics)

Known as a journalist, she was the director of Rema Radio and Television, a station broadcasting in the capital city of Bujumbura. From there she became involved in politics, before becoming a spokeswoman for the first Vice President of the Republic. Currently, she coordinates the communication of her party in Burundi.

Francoise Nibizi (activist)

Nibizi’s work includes that of activism for the rights of young girls. She is the founder of SaCoDé, a local NGO that advocates for the rights of girls. Her NGO manufactures and distributes sanitary towels, especially to girls from disadvantaged families, so that they can continue to attend school without stigma. She is often the guest of major organisations and conferences around the world.

Jeanne Gacoreke (humanitarian)

Jeanne Gacoreke is known for her efforts in assisting women in distress. One of her cases concerned a local woman who had been raped by a number of armed men. Gacoreke heard of her situation and she, along with other humanitarian workers in Fizi, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, decided they had to help. They brought the victim to Fizi where she was hospitalised for 18 months. “I rejoice when I see her in good health. Everyone had left her, but now she even has children,” Jeanne Gacoreke was reported as saying.

Jeanne Gacoreke | Desire Nimubona / © Culture Trip

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