When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

The 'Offering Economy' Of Burundi, Where Family Rites Are Financial Burdens

In Burundi, birthdays, baptisms and burial ceremonies tend to be marked with big family gatherings. Guests are expected to help out by offering, for example, a case of beer. For families with modest incomes, the price of so much partying is often untenabl

The road between Bujumbura and Gitega in Burundi (Dave Proffer)
The road between Bujumbura and Gitega in Burundi (Dave Proffer)
Gabby Bugaga and Stany Ngendakumana

BUJUMBURA – Family festivities are a central feature of life in Burundi. But they're also financially taxing, as families are expected to contribute to each and every gathering – even when they simply can't afford it.

"I have a list of more than 150 people who contributed at my mother's burial. And so I have to spend money every time I receive one of their invitations," says a determined yet discouraged civil servant in the Gihosha district of Bujumbura, the capital of the central African nation. This family head earns less than $200 per month. More than 30% of that money goes to funding family festivities. The man makes those contributions reluctantly, but with one single conviction: that they are central to the traditional culture of encounters and solidarity in Burundi.

There are many festivities that make up the day-to-day life of every Burundian. Among the most observed are dowries, pre-dowries, weddings, visiting and receiving in-laws, baptisms, birthdays and burial ceremonies.

Burundians are not formally obligated to make financial contributions to such events, yet most do – out of fear that they'll be marginalized by family members or neighbors who are quietly keeping track of who gave what when. Contributions vary, but typically a family might offer a case of beer or lemonade, which can cost anywhere from $8 to $15.

Some people, however, are starting to balk at paying. In the Kamenge district of Bujumbura, one man is currently in an argument with his wife and his brothers over his recent decision to stop paying for parties. After contributing money for a colleague's wedding, the man ended up having to go into debt in order to buy rice and beans for his family.

Calls for fewer festivities

Given the financial burden such festivities can place on families, civil society organizations like PARCEM, a local NGO, are calling on the government to simply abolish certain festivities. "One way to reduce spending would be to decrease the number of festivities important for Burundians," says PARCEM representative Faustin Ndikumana.

The government did just that in the 1980s, when Burundians – as they are doing once again – overspent on festivities and in some cases dedicated more time to preparing parties than working. "Why wouldn't we do it today?" says Mpitabakana Philippe, an 80s-era congressman.

The country's president, Pierre Nkurunziza, took a first step in a speech to the nation given on May 1. "We are asking Burundians to change their mentalities by giving up wasting on festivities," he said.

Others are trying to encourage changes on the cultural level. Abbot Alphonse Ndabiseruye, executive secretary of a Church-based development organization called the ODDBU, has begun working directly with people in the Kabezi and Mutambu districts, teaching them to understand their social worth is not determined by festivities. He wants to encourage other priests to spread this message.

Others have begun experimenting with so-called "affordable" festivities, where hosts provide free tea or coffee but charge their guests for alcohol. "I think it is an interesting case because at a time when other are making wedding a time of consumption, it shows that less spending means a better party," says a guest at one "affordable wedding."

Read the original article in French.

Photo - Dave Proffer

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Society

Journalism In A Zero-Trust World: Maria Ressa Speaks After Rappler Shut Down Again

The Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke with The Wire's Arfa Khanum Sherwani about how journalists everywhere need to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario of government-ordered closure and what they should do to face up to such a challenge.

Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Arfa Khanum Sherwani

HONOLULU — For someone who’s just been ordered to shut down the news website she runs, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is remarkably cheerful about what may happen next.

In a speech she gave to a conference at the East-West Center here on challenges the media face in a “zero trust world”, Ressa said that she and her colleagues were prepared for this escalation in the Philippines government’s war on independent media and will carry on doing the work they do. “If you live in a country where the rule of law is bent to the point it’s broken, anything is possible…. So you have to be prepared.”

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ