Christine Ntahe – Burundi

Linked with Peace x Peace.org, and with Search for Common Ground Burundi.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed fort the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “They say: ‘Stop! We are just like any other children and we did not choose to live on the streets”.

Christine Ntahe - Burundi redim 50p.jpg

Christine Ntahe – Burundi

She works for ‘Search for Common Ground Burundi‘.

Christine Ntahe was born in 1949 and is regarded as “mother” of street children in Burundi. For 30 years she worked as a journalist and manager with Radio Télévision Nationale de Burundi (RTNB).

She became famous for her Saturday children’s program. During the crisis years, which begun in 1994, her program frequently addressed the themes of peace and coexistence between the Hutus and Tutsis.Today, she works for Search for Common Ground at the Women’s Peace Center and for Studio Ijambo. In 2000 the youth of Bujumbura named her “Citizen of Peace” and “Best Mother of the Country”.

Christine Ntahe, born in 1949, is regarded as the “mother” of street children in Burundi.

For 30 years she worked as a journalist and manager with Radio Télévision Nationale de Burundi (RTNB). She became famous for her Saturday children’s programme. During the crisis years which begun in 1994, her programme frequently addressed the theme of peace and coexistence between the Hutus and Tutsis. Today she works for Ijambo Radio where she presents the program “Mukenyezi Nturambirwe” – “Women Be Brave.”

She also she works for Search for Common Ground at their Women’s Peace Center. In 2000 the youth of Bujumbura named her “Citizen of Peace” and “best mother of the country.”Every Saturday for 20 years Christine Ntahe gave children a voice through her radio programme “Tuganirizibibondo” – “Dialogue with Children.” In 1994, when the civil war was raging, the programme attracted attention in neighboring Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. During her program, she spoke to children about peace and the reality of Tutsis and Hutus living together. Children could take part by calling in, writing or by visiting the studio.

At that time many war orphans lived in the streets, where they were often victims of unjustified beating or discrimination. Christine began to involve street children in the programs, so that they could speak out. Athough it took a long time before these children could trust Christine, she recalls that they finally did participate and would say on air: “Stop! We are just like other children and we did not choose to live on the streets.”

Today Christine is their “mother” and her door is open to them every Sunday. She gives the children food, lets them have a bath and wash their clothes. She talks to them about the importance of school, Aids prevention, their rights, solidarity and mutual support.

As she talks, she is holding 12-year-old Adam in her arms. Adam is an orphan, who begs in the streets of Bujumbura for food and clothes. However, sometimes the little money he gets is only enough for some bread or an avocado and not for clothes. So he wears a dirty, flea-ridden T-shirt and sleeps next to a petrol station. Christine has not yet been able to persuade Adam to live with a family and attend school.

To date, she has rescued a dozen children from the streets, paid for their school and healthcare costs and given them love. Sometimes she gets into debt providing for the children. She has no network to support her children’s program. Her work with the international organisation Search for Common Ground allows her to live and support “her” children.

In an interview Christine once said: “Women can help a lot with reconciliation, because during the war women lost their children and were widowed. They can go to others in order to start a dialogue with them.”

She states that a lot of women had given their testimonies explaining what they have done for reconciliation. This, she said, helps other women who may not be in favor of peace or who will not dare speak out, to support peace building. When women listen to her program they say, “Oh! women in that province have done that” or “women in that commune share the same experiences as I have undergone.” She adds that the listener is then ready to do the same.

As an 11-year-old, she learnt what it was like to lose a father and because of this she easily relates to the situation of the street children, their desperation and fear. She says every conversation, whether on the radio, at home or on the street, adds to her understanding. She wishes to continue her work. Her vision is to live in a country at peace, in which human rights, especially those of children, are respected. (Read on this page of 1000peacewomen).

She works together with Marguerite Barankitse – Burundi.

links:

one of the Peace x Peace Newsletters;

Women’s Commission;

UN / CEDAW;

IPS.

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