Sylvie Twagirayezu, 42, became chief of Kibimba in 2020, a hill community in Burundi. She lives with her husband with their nine children, four of whom had been orphaned.
Sylvie herself was orphaned at a young age, she says. “I lost both my parents to the civil war when I was only thirteen. I am the oldest of seven children, so I had to leave school to take care of them. I was selling bananas and drinks to feed them.” These entrepreneurial skills have served her well and Sylvie now runs a beverage business with her husband.
Sylvie came into contact with the Every Voice Counts (EVC) program through her Village Savings and Loans Association, of which she is president. Sylvie and other women from her community were trained in leadership and women’s role in decision-making.
As a result of the EVC training, Sylvie was inspired to run for public office as chief of her community. “EVC really opened my eyes,” she says. “With the knowledge I got from the program, I felt the need to run in the 2020 elections. I saw the struggles that women in my community were facing. They had difficulties raising their problems in front of men, and ended up coming to me, while I was not an elected official. I wanted to represent them, to be a bridge between them and the authorities.”