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Article

Women in Burundi  

Marie Saiget

The history of women is characterized by nonlinear and gendered social, political and economic processes. In particular, the history of Burundian women’s collective actions has been embedded in the contested and violent trajectory of the Burundian state. Burundian women’s collective actions refer to a broad range of interactions: from protest, and social mobilizations to institutionalized actions. These interactions have been shaped by both global and local social structures, and by complex conflictive and cooperative relations between the Burundian state, political parties, women’s organizations and movements, and external actors (colonial powers, international organizations, non-governmental organizations). Women’s experiences in Burundi’s pre-colonial patriarchal society are little known, with the exception of the glorified Queen-mothers. German and Belgian colonial policies (1886–1962) reinforced and rigidified pre-colonial social constructions of ethnic and gendered social identities and roles, assigning ordinary women to the domestic sphere and sanctioning their social inferior status along with ethnic lines (Tutsi, Hutu, and Twa). After Burundi’s independence, the one-party military regime organized and supervised the first forms of women’s political participation through the Union des femmes burundaises (1962–1980s). The democratic transition of the early 1990s led to the creation of autonomous women’s organizations and networks, which were extended during the civil war (1993–2005). Burundian women actively contributed to national and grassroots peace processes. In particular, a delegation of seven Burundian women participated in the negotiations held in Arusha (1998–2000), with observer status. Post-conflict struggles for women’s rights posed the central issue of women’s political representation, with the adoption of gender quotas from 2005, but left aside other issues after 2010, such as women’s right to inherit land. In Spring 2015, Burundian women were present in protests against the president’s third mandate; with the women’s march being the first to reach the city center in March 2015. Women’s organizations kept mobilizing towards women’s rights after the electoral crisis, in exile or within Burundi, though facing important financial constraints and political repression.

Article

Women in Chad  

Eline Rosenhart and Germaine Remadji Guidimbaye

Chad, a landlocked state in the heart of Africa, encompasses an area of 495,755 square miles (1,284,000 km2) and contains a population of 15 million people, with an estimated 180 different people groups. Women have played an important role in Chad’s history and society. In the precolonial period (16th century–1900), Chadian women played an essential part in the physical labor activities that provided for the livelihood of the community, yet the majority of women held limited decision-making power. In the courts of precolonial kingdoms, however, certain women of high rank held important political functions. During the period of French colonial rule (1900–1960), no significant effort was made to promote the status of women. Moreover, certain colonial policies geared toward generating revenue inflicted disproportionally heavy burdens on Chadian women. Education for women in colonial schools was an exception rather than a rule. Nevertheless, a small number of women were able to take advantage of the opportunities they did receive to carve out a space for themselves and become leaders in independent Chad (1960– ). Those belonging to the dominant political party mostly aimed their attention at improving women’s rights, while others in the opposition focused on the larger battles against colonialism, authoritarianism, nepotism, and the blatant disregard for human rights in Chad. In early 21st-century Chad, women are still underrepresented in all spheres of public life. Sexual and gender-based violence against women has become commonplace, contributing to the mounting gender inequality that continues to pervade and shape Chad.