Through The Smile Project community, I became connected to Estella Irambona, the CEO and Founder of Mamas For Burundi Association (MAFOBA). This is her story.
Liz: Let’s start in true Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”
Estella: Happiness is wellbeing.
Liz: Tell me about Mamas for Burundi Association.
Estella: MAFOBA is a non-profit association founded in 2015, by Burundian girls and women, that works for the promotion of socio-economic rights, peace, leadership, integration, and social cohesion of essential rural communities in Burundi in East Africa.
We work primarily with women, girls, and children in rural areas who have been victims of social inequalities. We work with those who have been displaced or are living with HIV/AIDS or disabilities. We support women and girls who are survivors of sexual violence or early marriage. We also work with widows, sex workers, and children born of rape. All of these groups are marginalized in society.
Assisting the victims of multi-faceted violence is only effective when we have participation of the victims themselves and solidarity of other women and girls at local, national, regional, and international levels.
That is why we created Mamas For Burundi Association (MAFOBA). We unite vulnerable and needy women and girls in rural communities to prevent, fight, and finally, eradicate the multiple forms of violence and discrimination they face.
We imagine a Burundi where people act together to collectively combat injustice, social inequalities, violence in all its forms, racism, and discrimination (particularly against women and girls) and commits itself to the eradication of these and to civic education. We believe we can build a peaceful and decent society.
Liz: What are your objectives as an organization?
Estella: We have many objectives as an organization. These are a few of them:
Mobilize women and girls for local entrepreneurship through income-generating activities
Promote sustainable development and support the development of village communities in their projects concerning the supply of water and its use
Promote the health of community members by preventing and combating sexual and gender-based violence
Carry out advocacy and actions aimed at civic education, peace, and non-violence
Create awareness of the spirit of creativity among young girls and women for their empowerment in order to fully meet their basic social needs (water, health, education) and to abandon the sex trade.
Popularize the prevention and fight against infectious diseases (like HIV/AIDS)
Liz: Talk a little about how you work to achieve this.
Estella: We believe in education and professional training as a number one priority. Then, we focus on health, especially sexual and reproductive health. We work to prevent and combat child marriage and forced unions. We talk about Mother-Child health, puberty education, and the management of menstrual hygiene.
Through restoration of livelihoods and agro-pastoral recovery, we can have economic and social empowerment of women and have women emerge as leaders. We believe we can create a culture of peace, gender equality, and democratic values for empowerment and good governance. Lastly, we work to fight against deforestation and loss of biodiversity in Burundi. We care about the environment, water, and water sanitation.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Estella: Our driving force behind what we do is teamwork in monitoring and evaluation. We organize field visits during the implementation of activities and this is participatory.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Estella: For us, service means all of the powers to be exercised one after the other within the limits and separation of tasks. Service means all that our staff is collaborating in the offices and in the field and achieving our tasks. A lot of that goes back to teamwork.
Liz: How can people get involved?