Focusing on Female Ex-Combatants

Photo de Ken Rutherford ,cofounder of Survivor Corps,in visit in Burundi, May 2010 ,with women ex-combatants

CEDAC runs initiatives to redress the lack of projects aimed at female ex-combatants with research into their numbers, and the establishment of a system for their representation in civil society. Women who were formerly involved in the war are beginning to gain recognition and so far several hundred participants have taken part in the programme.

Women have been deeply affected in many ways by Burundi's 12-year civil war, usually as victims and not as actors. However, some women chose to or were forced to fight; many were also used as porters, cooks, or for sex.

In the post-war environment of Burundi's Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme offers grants to ex-combatants – defining these as people who hand in a weapon used in war. This definition excludes many of the women associated with rebel groups, who nonetheless encounter the same problems reintegrating and finding livelihoods. In fact, many face additional challenges: they may be accompanied by young children; be poorly educated or illiterate; or may never have had stable jobs. They may also be rejected by their communities because of their sexual involvement with rebel groups.


From surveys compiled in August 2006 and in July 2007, the former by CEDAC with the support of Small Arms Survey (SAS), a Swiss based organisation and the later by United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UNIFEM). It was found that of the female ex-combatants in the provinces of Bujumbura Town, Cibitoke, Bubanza and Muramvya

  • A great number of Burundian women had re-joined, either willingly or unwillingly, active duty. It is understood that this was due in part to reasons generally related to the security. The surveys also show that these women had played the greater role as they often recruit others to join, including their husbands, sons and daughters. This is why we at CEDAC are convinced that these women, who once joined militant structures, could also play an important role in reconciliation, and thus the real rebuilding of the post conflict country.
  • The evidence from these surveys suggests that these women, who faced sexual abuse during their combatant lives, are now better equipped to help others who have faced simular gender based violence.
  • Some of the women were living, for long periods, a lifestyle of combat and particularly rigorous military commandment. Since their return, they often haven’t had a sufficient time for the integration into normal social life within the civil population. These women often face stigmatization upon return.
  • The life of war has often strongly affected their psyches and has led to the development of a mental state that is quite different from that of their civilian counterparts. It becomes necessary to facilitate for women who have experienced military lives, an opportunity in which they can express themselves openly to other female ex-combatants. This peer-to-peer support for female ex-combatants will assist their social reintegration in conjunction with training for conflict resolution and nonviolent communication.
  • Many of these female ex-combatants, particularly those of the age to preform active duty, are now living in poverty conditions. It therefore becomes necessity for their reintegration through associative organisations and by training initiatives in which female ex-combatants can reskill, thereby developing preferable income generating activities.

UNIFEM has agreed to fund a project under the coordination of CEDAC, in which the problems facing female ex-combatants will be addressed through peer-to-peer programs and a heightened reintegration project tailored to women’s needs. UNIFEM would like to give the women of Burundi the opportunity to share their experiences with other women from around the world who have experienced similar situations.


At the national level is represented by a committee of five women who are elected to the national forum for female ex-combatants, an executive secretary shall oversee daily activities for the needs of female ex-combatants. At the municipal level, this structure is coordinated by an elected panel of five women and at the provincial level, this structure is represented by three elected women, while the Commons are administered by female representatives.

Activities and Opportunities

  • Training on combating and preventing domestic violence
  • Awareness against armed violence and Gender Based Violence
  • Organisation of women’s help groups in production called "organisation d'Assise Communautaire" (OAC)
  • Training on sexual health and family planning
  • Training in peer to peer support



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