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30 July 2014

Burundi: ASPE trains volunteer legal counsellors for women and girls

A total of 19 projects benefitted from grants between 10,000 and 30,000 euros in 2013. The majority of them have been working in the African Great Lakes region, i.e. the eastern part of the DR Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Since the mid 1990’s this has been one of the areas in the world most affected by conflict. In Burundi, too, it is often difficult for survivors of sexualised violence to receive adequate support. ASPE (Association pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Environnemental) trains volunteer legal counsellors who then act as a mediator in their villages between survivors and the judicial sector.

These legal counsellors provide counselling to women and girls concerning their rights and accompany them when they take legal action against the perpetrators. In these cases, ASPE covers the costs for transportation, food and legal fees.

To be able to provide adequate support, counsellors are first given basic legal training and also learn about trauma-sensitive approaches to treat their clients. Even these future counsellors are often initially unaware of the fact that national laws concerning violence against women have actually passed. Jeannine, for example, had herself suffered abuse from her husband. She emphasises after the training that she is no longer afraid and now knows that the law is there to protect her. Her insight gives other women courage to claim their rights.

In order to work against violence, village communities, too, are informed about women’s rights. As Jeannine goes on to explain: “Now there are some men who no longer consider sexual violence as being a custom or tradition but as a crime. And some women are now finding the courage to denounce and report sexual violence that happened to them or women they know.”

medica mondiale supported ASPE in 2013 with a grant of 10,000 euros.