• Kenny Brian Irakoze | Social Media and Communications Intern, IOM Burundi

Nyanza Lac, Burundi — Anitha's life has always been deeply intertwined with the devastating consequences of both climate-induced disasters and abuse from her partner.

Anitha witnessed firsthand the destructive power of nature's fury on 15 March 2020 in Nyanza Lac — a city in southern Burundi, in Makamba Province, located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, on the border with Tanzania and in an area prone to floods – when floods swept their home away and destroyed the family farmland.

The sense of hopelessness overwhelmed Anitha’s family as they witnessed floods wreak havoc in the community. The day after the flooding, Anitha pondered about the future and what awaited her and the children.

"What will become of me? Where will I end up? What kind of future awaits my children?" Anitha recalls asking herself.

However, the troubles she faced within her own household were equally overwhelming. In a society deeply rooted in patriarchal traditions, Anitha encountered gender-based violence and discrimination.

"My husband would drink excessively. He would start by insulting and beating me, saying that I hadn't given him enough sons," she recalls.

“Despite having one son, it wasn't sufficient for him, as he desired more sons than daughters.”

To her dismay, Anitha's husband abandoned her and their children in the aftermath of the flooding. The combination of abuse and the devastating impact of the floods left Anitha in a state of despair and uncertainty.

“He told me that he was leaving, and I should stay with your little girls,” recounts Anitha.

"What will become of me? Where will I end up? What kind of future awaits my children?"

Anitha has battled mental health. Photo: Alexander BEE/IOM Burundi 2023

Just like her, numerous women experience gender-based violence and discrimination within patrilineal communities in Burundi. Data from  UN Women Global Database on Violence against Women show that nearly half of women in Burundi have encountered lifetime physical and or sexual intimate partner violence. The consequences of such abuse extend far beyond physical pain, seeping into their mental well-being. The wounds inflicted by this trauma linger, eroding their confidence and self-worth.

"His departure plunged me into great confusion, and I went through a period of depression," she said.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing comprehensive assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have experienced gender-based violence (GBV). Recognizing the unique challenges faced by these individuals, IOM has tailored its MHPSS programs to address the nexus between displacement, trauma, and GBV.

"The support has boosted our confidence and well-being. They empowered us to voice our concerns and find collective solutions,” she expressed.

In addition to individual counseling, IOM facilitates group therapy sessions that allow survivors to connect with others who have faced similar challenges, fostering a sense of community, understanding, and empowerment. Sharing their stories and supporting one another has been a crucial step in the healing process for survivors of GBV. 

"The support has boosted our confidence and well-being. They empowered us to voice our concerns and find collective solutions.”

Anitha feeding the livestock she acquired as part of a collective income-generating activity. Photo: Alexander BEE/IOM Burundi 2023

IOM empowers survivors of gender-based violence, like Anitha, through reintegration efforts that provide them with the necessary skills and opportunities to generate income. Through vocational training and support programs, IOM has assisted 8,632 survivors of GBV from 2020 to 2023. Anitha's participation in the collective income-generating activity, alongside 16 other women from her village, proved to be transformative. With the support and training provided by IOM, they embarked on an agricultural venture, pooling their resources and knowledge. The collective effort enabled them to invest in fertilizers, enhancing the productivity of their farms. As their crops flourished, abundant harvests became a reality. Anitha, who previously relied on her husband and faced the burden of providing for her children, now has the means to ensure they receive nutritious meals. With the newfound resources, she no longer struggles to provide for herself and her children.

"Now, I have a source of income that helps provide for our daily food supply for my children and myself. The children can now go to school, and if they fall ill, I can afford to get them medical treatment" she says.

With the financial assistance provided by IOM, Anitha was able to acquire livestock and fulfill her long-cherished dream of owning a small piece of land, which now stands as a symbol of newfound independence and stability in her life. This plot of land not only offers her a fresh start but also serves as a fertile canvas upon which she can paint a brighter future for herself and her children. Still, owning land in a non-flood prone area brings a sense of security. 

IOM works to prevent GBV by training humanitarian actors and engaging with communities to challenge harmful gender norms often perpetuated by patrilineal societies. Additionally, they address the root causes by advocating for gender-responsive policies that promote gender equality and transform societal attitudes.

During displacement, IOM supports survivors by providing access to survivor-centered services, including medical care, psychosocial support, legal assistance, and safe shelter. Priority is given to meeting the needs of women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by GBV during times of crisis and displacement. 

Recognizing the distinct challenges that arise from displacement caused by climate change, IOM prioritizes the establishment of secure environments and the empowerment of women and girls through economic initiatives, education, and leadership programs.


SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being