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Your location>Home>Publications>PeaceWays>Spring 2012

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The Friends Women’s Association and the Kamenge Clinic
Leah Hazard, Global Health Corps Fellow

The stories patients tell when visiting the Friends Women’s Association’s (FWA) Kamenge Clinic are often difficult to hear. HIV+ pregnant mothers who were unable to secure antiretroviral drugs in time to ensure a healthy pregnancy, women struggling to raise children after being chased from their lands by the relatives of a deceased husband, and women seeking adequate health care from a woefully deficient system.

But there are also stories of women filled with pride after being trained as a Community Health Worker, stories of HIV+ women who have successfully started small businesses with a small amount of seed funding, stories of women who finally feel better after accessing medical care and affordable medications. These are the stories of the partnership between FWA and the women it serves.

As Burundi’s 13-year civil war was drawing to a close, women in Kamenge gathered to determine how they could help their community recover from the violence. Together, in 2002, they formed FWA in order to respond to the unique needs of women in the post-conflict environment. FWA’s founders wanted to address the issues of poverty, HIV/AIDS, sexual violence and post-genocide trauma facing women in their community.

Today, the organization’s mission is to provide holistic health care to women and their families, while promoting women’s leadership and strengthening peaceful communities throughout Burundi. In pursuit of this mission, FWA operates a small health clinic in Kamenge, a neighborhood hard hit by the civil war. The clinic’s services range from primary and preventative care to laboratory testing and HIV services. With the goal of providing comprehensive health care, patients with a demonstrated need are incorporated into home visits and microfinance programs.

However, FWA’s major accomplishment has been in working with communities to help them recover from trauma. Through a partnership with the American Friends Service Committee and funds from AusAID (Australia government), FWA has greatly expanded its trauma healing services. With the belief that in Burundi the most common form of re-traumatization is poverty, its programming aims to combine trauma healing with poverty alleviation efforts. Women go through both a basic and advanced trauma-healing workshop with other women in their community. At the end of the advanced training, women are given tools to support the start of their own business, or expand their agricultural efforts.

Program Manager, Sapphire Williams, a Quaker Peace and Social Witness peaceworker from England, explains that the organization is looking for women who are suffering from extreme poverty. The whole idea of our trauma healing program is that it’s holistic. As much as it focuses on trauma healing, it focuses on poverty reduction. It relies on the idea that even if you suffer from trauma and undergo healing, you will not be able to fully recover from that trauma if you are in a state of extreme poverty.

In the future, the organization expects to improve their services, slowly but surely. They have plans to become a vaccination center for the community, secure a generator to ensure the consistent supply of electricity, and continue to expand their trauma healing services to even more communities throughout Burundi.

When I came to the workshop, I was feeling so bad, my heart was about to explode. Three weeks ago my husband died. I also had problems with my children, which caused me so much pain. But when I started coming to the workshop, what we learned helped me so much. I feel better now. I even started to laugh again. I feel released. Cecile, trauma healing workshop participant

The microfinance project came to me like a miracle from God because I have a neighbor who helped me to work. We gathered our money and together we started a project selling charcoal….Per month, we can gain a profit of approximately 80,000 FBU ($63)... Because of this, I can say that thanks to the microfinance project, my life has completely changed. Today I have an occupation. I spend my day at the work site. I have friends at work who accompany me and encourage me day by day. I no longer feel depressed. Marie-Rose, micro-finance participant

I learned about FWA from a Quaker church, and came to a training for repatriated refugees. That's how we started to go help one another in the fields. As a participant in a trauma healing workshop, I learned the best practices and techniques about counseling - and in return, I shared it with other women in the community. Now . . . we talk and find solutions for change together in our lives. Suzanne, 36-years old, trauma healing workshop participant