The advocate working to enable and empower women peacemakers


Champions of Change is an initiative started by the Pathfinders to highlight advocates who have made an impact in their communities and have helped to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies (SDG16+). It provides an opportunity to feature individuals, businesses, and organizations doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. As part of the Movement to Halve Violence by 2030, hear from Champions who have made building peaceful societies their cause and mission in life, and learn what you can do to join them!

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.*

Ariane Kaze is the President of Women United for Peace in the Great Lakes Region (Femmes Unies pour la Paix dans la région des Grands Lacs), an organization established in 2000 in Bujumbura, Burundi. Women United for Peace works to harness the power of women as drivers of reconciliation and peaceful collaboration in the region, through programs supporting small arms control and the socio-economic integration of populations affected by war. Ariane has served with the organization for more than five years, and in her work, she continues to be dedicated to defending women’s rights, fundamental human rights and dignity of all. Ariane is also a member of the Gender Equality Network on Small Arms Control (GENSAC) and is active in other organizations including International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA).

We spoke with Ariane Kaze to learn more about her work and what drives her:

What is the goal of your work and how is it relevant to accelerate SDG16+ targets on peace, justice, and inclusion?

The goal of Women United for Peace in the Great Lakes Region is to bring together and guide the efforts of women to establish and maintain lasting peace in the region. In order to accelerate [SDG16+ targets], particularly on peace, justice, and inclusion, we are working to:

  • enable women to fully realize their place and role in peace education, as well as in socio-economic promotion;
  • serve as a platform to share information and experiences among women peacemakers;
  • provide women with the means to claim their rights wherever and whenever necessary; and
  • prevent and fight hate in society and fight against the proliferation of small arms.

Why did you decide to work in this field? What was your inspiration?

I remember well that when I was in high school and university we went through periods of conflict. My leadership role as class president gave me a sense of responsibility and [that experience] encouraged me to face and solve conflicts in our student environment. My school and academic curriculum was paired with the enhanced skills that I developed thanks to my activism within the Youth Catholic International Student movement (JECI / Africa), which concentrate on peace, reconciliation, and conflict resolution issues.

I grew up in a patriarchal Burundian society in which professionals and decision-makers operate with a mentality that is not favorable to women. Because of this, efforts to advance the rights of women have not yielded many results. Growing up, Burundi was marked by cyclic wars in which women suffered greatly. Once married, women were often abused. In some cases, a woman would lose her spouse in the war and become the sole provider for her kids. The children were often also dragged into the conflicts, joining the rebellion out of anger because they want to avenge their parent’s death, for example. This led to other women finding themselves in another cycle of violence. These are the reasons that led me to work in peacebuilding field. I wish to break the cycle of violence which holds women hostage and advocate for the cause of women.

To achieve a peaceful, just, and inclusive world, how do you see success and what are the key factors to achieve this vision?

Success begins within the family because the family is a melting pot for humanization and socialization. If a woman — be she a wife, a mother, a sister, or an educator — succeeds in instilling moral and social values ​​in her own family, and in everyone with whom she cohabits, we will be on our way towards a new, just, egalitarian, and peaceful society. For this to happen — to [instill these values in every child] — it is up to the society to take over to meet the challenges that stand in the way of this beautiful project of a mother towards her child. It is from this perspective that society is called upon to offer equal opportunities to women and men.

Some of the factors needed to make this happen include:

  1. produce opportunities for all;
  2. have an inclusive decision-making attitude;
  3. reflect on decisions that reduce socio-economic gaps;
  4. promote popular education and increase the literacy rate;
  5. promote a moral and educational conversation on the prevention of crime and armed violence;
  6. place women at the forefront of positive change in society (including new communication strategies for behavior change; values ​​linked to resiliency; informing women of their fundamental rights and duties)

What obstacles have you encountered in your work?

Public security institutions seem to be the only ones conducting activities related to peace and security, small arms control, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and the role of civil society in peacebuilding has been ignored. In addition, there are not enough activists involved in this thematic area and there is a lack of appropriate materials for our work such as computers, cameras, recorders, etc. We are faced with insufficient financial resources and collaboration between NGOs working on peacebuilding and access to decision-makers is very limited.

What impact is COVID-19 pandemic having on your work? Are there any lessons from the pandemic that you hope to apply in the future?

We usually work in the field and the pandemic has limited our movements. We also have found it difficult to make the population understand the hygienic needs associated with COVID-19 and to get them to respect social distancing, especially in rural areas. In addition to that, people are faced with famine, and it is difficult to sensitize people when they are hungry. Living conditions have become harsh, since no agricultural policies have been developed to ensure food security.

[In terms of our day-to-day work], the pandemic has made us work remotely and now we can organize certain activities from a distance. The pandemic has also strengthened collaboration and partnership among NGOs leading to more effectiveness.

What advice would you give to professionals, policymakers, and other stakeholders looking to make a difference for a more just, egalitarian, and peaceful world?

To professionals: I encourage them to promote innovation in each of their areas of ​​expertise, and to get involved in the community to favor platforms that will lead to inclusive dialogue and establish professional journals.

To legislators: I ask them to vote for laws that protect the common people, reduce social-economic gaps, and encourage the empowerment of women. To the executive power: I would like them to ensure that these laws are implemented.

Finally, to Stakeholders: I encourage the creation of platforms and the use of social networks that promote discussion and make room for the media and artists.

To all: collaboration to achieve the objectives. Together, let us promote income-generating activities that reduce the gaps between the rich and the poor. Poverty is another factor of exclusion and a threat to a just, egalitarian, and peaceful society.