MOTHERS’ UNION WORLDWIDE PRESIDENT VISITS BURUNDI
September 12, 2012
A welcome with flowers at Bujumbura airport on 18th August 2012 marked the start of a two week visit by the Mothers’ Union Worldwide President, Mrs. Rosemary Kempsell and Mothers’ Union trustee, Mrs. Roberta McKelvey to the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi.
Their visit to the Province was the first by a Worldwide President and enabled them to hear about and experience the work of Mothers’ Union in all six dioceses.
They were met by Mothers’ Union diocesan Presidents and Coordinators and accompanied around the dioceses by Mrs. Mathilde Nkwirikiye, Provincial Mothers’ Union President and Mrs. Claudette Kigeme, Provincial Mothers’ Union Coordinator.
They heard how Mothers’ Union has been instrumental in transforming the lives of individuals, families and communities throughout the country. Under-girded by Christian values and beliefs and equipped with new skills and training many women and some men now fulfill important and meaningful roles as members of their families and communities. Although an Anglican organization Mothers’ Union Burundi seeks to reach out to all members of society.
The Mothers’ Union Literacy and Development programme was in its infancy in 2001 when Rosemary Kempsell first visited Burundi. As she saw the progress made since that time she spoke of her excitement at seeing the impact it has had on thousands of lives. About 59,000 learners have benefited from the programme. As some told their stories she learned how many were denied the basic right to education but had found in the programme an opportunity to improve and develop. They are now empowered to make decisions and have more dignity and respect. She was able to participate in the awarding of 270 certificates to accredited literacy learners, one of whom was in his seventies during her visit.
The provision of micro-credits and loans and the establishment of savings groups have enabled numerous associations to start small projects and businesses. Mothers’ Union members and beneficiaries were found selling bananas, vegetables, drinks and doughnuts in market stalls. One association visited is engaged in the production of palm oil. They explained how they began by making bricks but found it was not economically viable. With a loan through Mothers’ Union they were able to change, hire a plantation of oil palm trees and start production of oil for their own benefit and also for their community. They spoke of their vision to expand their project and increase production. One member explained that they realized that they could not always be dependent on external help but had to find ways to become independent.
Reports from diocesan coordinators provided an overview of Mothers’ Union in Burundi. Among the varied projects described that empower people economically were bee keeping, bread making, sewing, and the growing of food products. Produce and crafts that provide members with income were exhibited and some were for sale. Other activities mentioned included those addressing issues of gender based violence and reproductive health and the support of vulnerable groups such as orphans and widows.
A meeting with the First Lady of Burundi, Her Excellency Denise Nkurunziza provided an opportunity to explain the goals and work of Mothers’ Union. Rosemary Kempsell spoke of the on-going holistic approach of Mothers’ Union that focuses on faith, family and community. She described how the various programmes not only equipped individuals with skills but also developed the whole person in order to transform the lives of families and communities. She explained that Mothers’ Union Burundi shares in a continuing partnership with Mothers, Union worldwide that is spread across 83 countries with a membership of over 4 million. The First Lady reinforced the importance of education in combating illiteracy and domestic violence in particular. “When the family is stable so is the country”, she said. She congratulated Mothers’ Union on all it has accomplished and was interested to hear of the work of advocacy through the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the forthcoming meeting that will focus on violence against women. After expressing her thanks for the visit, she prayed for the Mothers’ Union in Burundi.
A visit to the memorial at Buta, a Roman Catholic seminary where 37 students were massacred in 1997 brought into sharp reality the sorrow and trauma experienced by many in Burundi and the continuing importance of forgiveness and reconciliation throughout society.
Rosemary Kempsell challenged Mothers’ Union Burundi to consider how it should develop in the future in order to remain relevant to the changing needs of society. “Essentially we are building God’s kingdom, sharing God’s love and equipping people with the skills to do that”, she said. She was impressed by the level of integration of Mothers’ Union in the life of the Church and the support given by Church leaders at all levels. She commented on the enthusiasm, love for God, joy and commitment she had witnessed that are testimony to the contribution of Mothers’ Union and she congratulated Mothers’ Union Burundi for the excellent work it is doing.
The Archbishop of the Province, the Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi thanked her for her visit and encouragement and for the support given through the partnership with Mary Sumner House in the UK. He looked forward to seeing Mothers’ Union continuing to make an impact in the Church and country. “A transformed woman transforms the family, the community and the whole nation”, he said.