Introduced: Augusta Muhimpundu

Since the beginning of November 2017, the team at the Baden-Württemberg Development Cooperation Foundation (SEZ) has had a new scholarship holder: Augusta Muhimpundu from Burundi will work as an expert for the Burundi Competence Center until the end of June 2018. In her hometown of Bujumbura, she is the program coordinator of YESS, a program of the Association Des Guides Du Burundi. This exchange program enables young women to do a six-month internship abroad. The main areas of focus for the psychologist are the training of young managers and the empowerment of women. Since 2016 she has been one of the Young Women Speakers of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

SEZ: How would you describe yourself?

Augusta Muhimpundu: I am cheerful, I really like to help and I would say that I love people. I'm crazy and my dreams have no limits. I try to live to the fullest every day. My family is very big. Our house in Bujumbura was always full of life, with lots of craziness and with different generations. I was the youngest in our family. My father is a university teacher and we lived in a terraced housing estate where many university members lived with their children. As a child I was very quiet, at least when I was at school. I played a lot with friends from the neighborhood and would say I had a very happy childhood.

SEZ: Do you have a childhood memory during the crisis?

Augusta Muhimpundu: I still remember sitting in front of our house with friends and watching bullets fly back and forth over the roofs. That was in the year 2000 and I was 9 years old. It was the most normal thing in the world back then. We felt safe in our part of Bujumbura because we thought it only affected other parts of the city. Today, I know from friends in those neighborhoods that they felt the same way about our neighborhood. When you can't change anything, you find a way to still live a happy life. That was our path.

SEZ: What does your name mean? Augusta Muhimpundu: My grandmother gave me my last name, my father gave me my first name. Augusta because I was born in August. Muhimpundu is the name of a very famous and beautiful melody in Burundi. I suspect that she sang to my grandmother when she found out that I was the first girl born into the family after two boys. “Muhe” comes from “give”. So my last name means something like “I was given a melody”. My father gave me the additional name “Cuzuzo” when I was 22. It means something like “The part we were missing”.

SEZ: What is your professional background?

Augusta Muhimpundu: After school, I studied clinical psychology in Bujumbura and then worked for six months on an exchange program in South Africa. Back in Burundi, I wrote my thesis and then worked for Cafob, a project that empowers girls and women in East Africa. I was the representative of Burundi and coordinator of the project. Before I came to Germany, I was the program coordinator for the YESS program of the Association Des Guides Du Burundi.

SEZ: Why do you think empowering girls and women is particularly necessary?

Augusta Muhimpundu: Burundi is a very patriarchal system. Men have a fixed place in society. They make the decisions and everything starts with them. As boys grow up, they learn that they are more important than girls. That's why it's important to me to help girls and women gain self-confidence so that they can achieve their goals. Why shouldn't a woman become a soldier, pilot or engineer if she wants to? In Burundi this is not a given. I help young women discover what they love, what they want and how to achieve their goals. Reflecting on your own self and your own strengths is very important. An internship abroad can be very helpful. That's why we promote this type of exchange with many countries in sub-Saharan Africa and most recently also with Bangladesh and Nepal.

SEZ: You have been in Germany for four months now. What surprised you the most? And what do you miss most?

Augusta Muhimpundu: What surprised me most was the weather. I knew I would arrive in the summer. And then this: 18 degrees Celsius and rain. I am still positively surprised by the friendliness and openness of the people in Germany. My friends and acquaintances around the world were worried about me when I told them that I would be living in Germany. Germany has a reputation in many countries that the people there are unfriendly and unwelcoming. I am very happy that I am convinced of the opposite every day here and I tell everyone that they should come and be convinced of the opposite. I miss friends and family and I miss my favorite food, such as isombe, a meal with cassava leaves and brochettes, which are meat skewers.

SEZ: What does the partnership between Burundi and Baden-Württemberg mean to you?

Augusta Muhimpundu: I didn't know anything about the partnership before I applied to SEZ and I'm learning more about the long-standing relationships every day. When I'm back in Burundi, I'll do a lot of advertising for it.

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