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Passing on words of wisdom

As well as bringing ethnic groups together, the book links the generations too. Many of the Remesha women are illiterate so their children got involved with writing the proverbs down and drawing illustrations.  Reflecting that the traditional proverbs belong to Africa and not to a single ethnic group or nation, the book can also be read in four languages - Kirundi, Kiswahili, French and English. It can thus better diffuse Burundi’s oral tradition and cultural heritage, and help readers improve their language skills. The translations from Kirundi were supervised by UNV volunteers and national linguistic experts volunteer in close connection with the Women’s Peace Center, Remesha Association and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. (J.Guillemard/UNV/BINUB)As well as bringing ethnic groups together, the book links the generations too. Many of the Remesha women are illiterate so their children got involved with writing the proverbs down and drawing illustrations. Reflecting that the traditional proverbs belong to Africa and not to a single ethnic group or nation, the book can also be read in four languages - Kirundi, Kiswahili, French and English. It can thus better diffuse Burundi’s oral tradition and cultural heritage, and help readers improve their language skills. The translations from Kirundi were supervised by UNV volunteers and national linguistic experts volunteer in close connection with the Women’s Peace Center, Remesha Association and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. (J.Guillemard/UNV/BINUB) The first sales of the Remesha book of proverbs at the launching ceremony. The proverbs project provides seed capital for small business ventures, but also presents a picture of Burundi's past and future. Though thousands were killed during a decade-long ethnic crisis, the book promotes a vision of a Burundi where people can live together in peace. (S. Liechti/UNV/BINUB)The first sales of the Remesha book of proverbs at the launching ceremony. The proverbs project provides seed capital for small business ventures, but also presents a picture of Burundi's past and future. Though thousands were killed during a decade-long ethnic crisis, the book promotes a vision of a Burundi where people can live together in peace. (S. Liechti/UNV/BINUB)People who purchase the book can give their contact details and will be updated on where the proceeds are going. In addition, the Ministry for Youth, Sports and Culture in Burundi said that the book may be provided to youth centres and other institutions in Burundi. Left to right: Moses Chasieh Nteh, UNV volunteer Monitoring and Evaluation Officer (Cameroon); Jean Pierre Bizabishaka, Protocol Officer; Mahamadou Coulibaly, Media Advisor. (S. Liechti/UNV/BINUB)People who purchase the book can give their contact details and will be updated on where the proceeds are going. In addition, the Ministry for Youth, Sports and Culture in Burundi said that the book may be provided to youth centres and other institutions in Burundi. Left to right: Moses Chasieh Nteh, UNV volunteer Monitoring and Evaluation Officer (Cameroon); Jean Pierre Bizabishaka, Protocol Officer; Mahamadou Coulibaly, Media Advisor. (S. Liechti/UNV/BINUB)
22 April 2009

Bujumbura, Burundi: Intibagira ntibana (He who does not forget cannot live with others): Burundian proverb

UNV is helping a diverse group of Burundian women use their traditional knowledge to promote peace and break out of extreme poverty in their community.

The women from the Remesha Association in Bujumbura are publishing a book of proverbs that brings together Burundi's common heritage. The profits will help them with small business start-ups in their own community and in their neighbourhood.

The book was launched on 16 April 2009 at the Women’s Peace Center in Bujumbura. The ceremony was attended by the Director General for Culture at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Rose Nzobambona, and the UN Deputy Executive Representative of the Secretary-General (DERSG) in Burundi, Bintou Keita.

“This initiative can inspire other initiatives emphasizing the assets and specific potential of each association or community,” said the DERSG.

The Remesha Association brings together 44 displaced and mostly widowed elderly women from different ethnic backgrounds. ('Remesha' is a Kirundi word meaning 'restore hope').

In June 2007, the association was introduced to UNV by the Women's Peace Center, a leading NGO in Burundi. As the Remesha women were having difficulties with their farming activities and running a small business cooperative, UNV gave technical and financial support to help with other income-generating initiatives.

As well as promoting development in their community, an aim of the Remesha association is to pass on a culture of peace to young people in their community: hence the book of proverbs.

Once the content was ready, UNV in Burundi funded the initial print run of 1,000 books. In close connection with the Women's Peace Center and the Remesha Association, UNV is supporting the distribution phase by identifying local and international markets within the UN and NGO communities, as well as the Burundian population at large.

The launch ceremony began with a skit and dancing, and the DERSG asked the women which proverb could best express their feelings at that moment. The answer was:  “Intibagira ntibana (He who does not forget cannot live with others).”

The DERSG also talked about the “social and economic impact” the book might have. “The spirit of volunteerism, this spirit which each of those women carry within and has no age, is indeed transmitted to future generations,” she remarked.

Other than financing reprints, the profits will go towards launching income-generating activities in the community such as a mushroom culture facility or a flour mill. The proceeds will also finance a guarantee fund providing microcredit to the community and to other women’s groups.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)