Burundi women still marginalised in many aspects

Bujumbura- Burundi (PANA) -- An official at Burundi's Ministry of Social Action and Women Affairs has called for efforts to increase the representation of women in the country's decision-making bodies.
Guadence Rwamaheke said that although women constituted 52 percent of Burundi's population, they were less protected than their male counterparts by the country's laws.
Rwamaheke said this in Bujumbura on Tuesday at a workshop organised by her ministry in collaboration with the ministry of Human Rights and Relations with Parliament.
The workshop brought together legislators and policy makers in an attempt to formulate methodological approaches for popularising the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against Women.
Some of the participants conceded that even though Burundi had signed the Convention two decades ago, the situation of women has not experienced any significant development to date.
Rwamaheke, one of the few women in such a position, made reference to the revised Family and Criminal Code in 1993.
The expectation of Burundian women in other sectors remain high, as stated in the initial report produced in January 2001 on the implementation of the 1991 Convention, she added.
This document stated that the situation of women has not improved despite the commitments made by the male-dominated public authorities.
It said about 90 percent of Burundian women are rural dwellers while about 95 percent of them are peasants and over 90 percent of them gave birth at home.
This, it said, considerably increases the maternal and infant mortality rate.
Due to falling living conditions, Burundi's maternal mortality rate increased from 500 for 100,000 women giving birth in 1993, to 800 for 100,000 in 1997.
This situation, it said, is essentially due to the socio-political crisis in Burundi for close to eight years.
With regard to decision-making positions, the same disparities exist.
It revealed that only one out of 22 Burundi cabinet ministers is a woman who heads the "symbolic" ministry of Social Action and Women's Affairs.
The report said women's representation in the various ministries and departments is put at only 9 percent compared to men.
It further states that women also represented at about 9 percent at the level of departmental heads and only 12 percent in Parliament.
Elsewhere, in the territorial administration, the situation of women is far from brilliant.
The report observes the total absence of women, as head Of the country's various provinces and communes.
It noted that there is no single woman in the Burundi diplomatic corps abroad.
Another report, published in 1999 indicated that the number of illiterate women was 60 percent higher than that of men.
On the other hand, the enrolment of girls in primary schools was 13 percent lower than that of boys while Burundian women civil servants earn wages that are 75 percent of what their male colleagues earn.
The report also reveals that under customary laws, women are not allowed to inherit land.
The document noted that the women are considered inferior to men because customary laws govern the succession and settlement of marriage disputes.
Gaudence Rwamaheke observed that the government was less likely to re-examine the condition of women now because its priority is the restoration of peace and security in the war-torn country.

30 may 2001 16:03:00

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