Today we present another form of powerful expression – poetry. This poem, “How Do We Break the Stigma of Sexual Violence” was written by survivors from the survivors movement in Burundi to speak to faith leaders on the issue of sexual violence.

The 1972 and 1993 Burundian genocides, and the Burundian Civil War (1993-2006) erupted from ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tutsi, claiming over 300,000 lives. More recently, civil conflict broke out in April 2015. More than 460,000 refugees have fled, citing sexual and gender-based violence as one of the reasons. Imbonerakure, the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party, has reportedly used rhetoric to promote sexual violence.

How Do We Break The Stigma of Sexual Violence? 

We do it by speaking out, but without you and your churches,

we cannot change things.

You are powerful and influential.

You must help us do this work. We want to work hand in

hand with you.

We are more than willing to come speak to

your congregation, to be the voice and faces of rape in

South Africa.

We ask you to open doors for us.

We want to enter your

church with our truth as the real survivors, not just

marginalised women.

We have been harmed, but we are

more powerful to change the world.

We are fighting for ourselves and every other woman who is

still silent.



Much still needs to be done to help those who were victimized during the conflicts. Political and judicial institutions lack sufficient resources and willingness to persecute perpetrators, making gender-based violence untraceable. Despite the announcement of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Burundi in 2016, transitional justice has not yet occurred in the country. The Burundian government does not have an independent monitoring system that would allow it to publicly report on the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence, thus making data hard to find on victims and perpetrators. Developed with the support of UNICEF and UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) in 2005, Burundi established the National Protocol on the Treatment of Sexual Violence, which provides a framework for coordination of the medical response to sexual violence. However, comprehensive training for the government medical staff on the protocol has not yet been done and the necessary kits for victims of sexual violence in hospitals have not been distributed or even developed.

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