The “Fondation pour l’Egalité des Chances en Afrique” awarded the 2017 Prize to Marguerite Barankitse, “the woman with 10,000 children”
On March 23, 2017, during a ceremony in Jodoigne, Belgium, the “Fondation pour l’Egalité des Chances en Afrique” awarded its 2017 prize to the Burundian activist Marguerite Barankitse for her fight, through the NGO “Maison Shalom” in favor of war orphans and street children in Burundi.
Since 1993, the “Maison Shalom” has been hosting and supporting orphans of war and AIDS, street children, indigenous children, and infants in custody with their mothers.
In 2015, when the civil war broke out in Burundi, the “Maison Shalom” and its hospital were looted and their bank accounts blocked by the regime of President Nkurunziza, whose candidacy for a third term triggered the conflict that is still shaking the country today. Since the beginning of the crisis in April 2015, the death toll continues to rise, more than 1000 people were killed, 8,000 detained, between 300 and 800 disappeared, hundreds of people tortured, more than 360,000 people had to flee the country, including nearly 80,000 people displaced in Rwanda.
It is therefore in the exile in Rwanda that the “Maison Shalom”, with hundreds of children who have escaped the massacres, tries to restore dignity to these orphans by ensuring their schooling. By awarding a prize of 100,000 € to the “Maison Shalom”, the Foundation would like to support this action while the work of Marguerite Barankitse and the “Maison Shalom” is weakened by different obstacles created by the Burundian regime.
“By founding the Maison Shalom, Marguerite Barankitse wanted to create a new generation capable of breaking the cycle of violence that has begun in 1993. The cause of the child has no religion, no ethnicity. The interests of the child must transcend all borders. For it is our duty, Africans from Mauritania, Burundi and Congo, to ally ourselves to change this Continent, to strengthen the equal opportunities of all our children”, said Mohamed Bouamatou, President of the Foundation during the Prize awarding ceremony to Marguerite Barankitse. “The foundation will always and untiringly reward those who are fighting for a worthy appropriation of our African future.”
Several political figures were present and showed their support to the cause of Marguerite Barankitse, including Louis Michel, Belgian Minister of State and Member of the European Parliament, Jean-Paul Wahl, Deputy and Mayor of Jodoigne and Isabelle Durant, former Vice- President of the European Parliament. The Congolese Doctor, Denis Mukwege, known as “the man who repairs women” for his work against the deliberate and planned destruction of the genital organs of women in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and winner of the Foundation's 2016 Prize, has also attended the ceremony to encourage the work of Marguerite Barankitse.
“Denis Mukwege and Maggy Barankitse are outstanding humanists. The fact that they are two immense Africans who carry high ethical standards in a continent which we, too often, tend to identify with the anti-democratic deviations of certain regimes, gives a special significance to their work”, said Louis Michel in his opening speech. “Denis and Maggy, through your struggles, you have decided to serve your ideals of solidarity, social justice and humanity. Woman and Man of visionary projects, you are committed to add your stone to the construction of a fairer world, a world of peace, a nobler world in the ethical sense of the term”. In her “thank-you” speech, Marguerite Barankitse explained that the Foundation's assistance will be devoted to the schooling of exiled orphans it hosts. “I am convinced that well-educated rural and urban youth will be able to fight corruption that decimates Africa,” said Margaret Barankitse. “To ensure that present and future generations no longer suffer the cruel assaults of our political history, we must promote equality of opportunity. We must promote a system of equity and meritocracy”.