Francoise Grace Nibizi
iLEAP International Fellow, 2016
Francoise Grace Nibizi grew up in Burundi in a family of 10, where everything–books, clothes, and food–was shared. She lives by this ethos as the executive director of SaCoDE, the Burundian organization she founded to promote community health through information, education, and awareness. Running an NGO in Burundi is daunting as a woman because of cultural beliefs. “Burundian communities have been traditionally socialized to see men as key decision-makers,”
Francoise explains, which creates enormous social pressure and barriers for women leaders. She has had to develop coping strategies and unlearn the disempowering messages she received as a girl in order to build her organization, which mentors and supports young people and vulnerable women. Along the way she has learned creative ways to support them in an environment that is not only discriminating toward women, but also politically unpredictable.
Francoise is “not the type of person who gets put up to a big challenge and backs down.” As an iLEAP Fellow, she believes that sharing and learning from international colleagues will boost her self-awareness and confidence in her leadership abilities. She expects to return home with new tools to continue empowering Burundian women.