“We need people to teach others that girls are important”

This week, we are paying tribute to an amazing voice for children in Burundi who left our world too early.

UNICEF is extremely sad to report that Carlène Kaneza, 16, child journalist and U-Reporter with UNICEF Burundi, passed away last week following a long struggle with illness. She was brave, intelligent, and possessed enormous curiosity regarding the world around her, and her reports on Burundi’s children often stood out for their impressive quality. A story on children who work in mines earned her a prize with Burundi’s Bonesha FM in 2015.

To honor Carlene’s work and legacy, we are featuring one of our favorite pieces by her: an interview in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in which UNICEF Burundi Representative Bo Viktor Nylund and Carlene swapped roles. Mr. Nylund, journalist for a day, interviewed Carlene about violence against girls in Burundi and the refusal to respect their rights.

Carlene, your friends at UNICEF will do everything to continue your advocacy in favour of Burundi’s children.


In honor of 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the 16 days of activism, UNICEF Burundi Representative Bo Viktor Nylund and child journalist Carlene Kaneza, 16 years old, swapped roles. Mr. Nylund, journalist for a day, interviewed Carlene about violence against girls in Burundi and the refusal to respect their rights.

Both are wearing orange to show their commitment to the 16 Days of Activism.

BVN: What is the situation of girls in Bujumbura, Burundi?

Carlène Kaneza: In Bujumbura there are a lot of problems, especially for girls. There are girls that stay in the street, that beg. Others, because they don’t have parents and can’t pay for school or food, are in prostitution. They wander in the streets in order to find customers.

BVN: Are girls more vulnerable than boys?

CK: Yes. Here in town, it’s more developed. But if you look at the countryside, when girls get to secondary school, they’re forced to drop out because they don’t have money to pay for school anymore. Parents say, the place of a girl is at home, doing housework. But that’s wrong! Girls are often first in their class. They are intelligent. It’s as if girls do not have a good place in society here.

BVN: How can we change society so that girls are acknowledged and recognized?

CK: I think it is the policy of free primary schooling that the President introduced which pushed people to send their girls to school. Otherwise I think they would be saying, “Paying for studies for my daughters is a waste of money.” They think that if they have a boy, he could grow up to be president or a minister. They think that girls don’t have a role in government.

A young woman talking.
Young journalist Carlene Kaneza, 16, answers a question.

BVN: As a child journalist, what is your role in promoting the role of girls?

CK: Before I used to do radio broadcasts, but unfortunately now we no longer have media [Editor’s note: independent media in Burundi were destroyed in May]. But we can do things on social media. I can write something and post it on Facebook or Twitter so that there is a change. I don’t own anything really, but I can have an idea or some advice and put it on social media.

BVN: If you worked for UNICEF, what would you do to improve the situation of girls?

Dialogue is what counts, first and foremost. We need people that can teach others, especially in the countryside, that girls are important. I think it’s poverty that makes people discount the importance of girls. We need to provide projects for them to be able to earn money and develop themselves.

I also count a lot on girls’ education. I see girls that wander the streets because they have no education. It would be better if they went to school. Some girls who go to school stop after 6th grade because secondary school isn’t free. We need to multiply schools and make both primary and secondary school free.

Read the post in French.

Eliane Luthi is a Communication Specialist in the Communication and Participation Section, Burundi Country Office

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  1. It is sad that so many girls around the world are deprived of education, the pillar for any nation’s development

  2. Please i need to contact with Rosangela Berman Bieler, i am a friend of her father José Berman.Thanks.