APPEAR Scholars contribute to the new PROSOWO book

Scholarship holders Charles Rutikanga and Jacqueline Murekasenge
Jacqueline Murekasenge and Charles Rutikanga carried out empirical research on culturally specific and innovative social work practices in Burundi and Rwanda. Their research was part of the PROSOWO project and has now been published in the book "Social Work Practice in Africa. Indigenous and Innovative Approaches."

The book is the latest outcome of the project Professional Social Work in East Africa | PROSOWO. Within this framework Jacqueline Murekasenge and Charles Rutikanga have been nominated for an APPEAR scholarship to pursue their PhD studies at the University of Vienna. Both have been involved in PROSOWO activities prior to their studies. Being social workers, having conducted research in their respective countries Jacqueline and Charles have also (co)-authored book chapters. Read more about their research on indigenous approaches of problem solving in the abstracts provided below.

  • Exploring the efficacy of the "Bashingantahe" institution as an indigenous model of problem solving in Burundi

Susan Muchiri, Jacqueline Murekasenge and Serges Claver Nzisabira

Burundi has a rich tradition, with effective institutions that help in solving problems and insuring the society well-being. The research conducted in 2016-2017 on the indigenous and innovative models of social work identified the Bashingantahe institution, one of the indigenous models. Though the Bashingantahe institution no longer plays the vital role it used to play in the traditional Burundi, it still exists and its members are regarded as highly important in the Burundian society today. Bashingantahe base their conduct on such values as wisdom, integrity, justice, honesty, discernment, industriousness, self–reliance and a sense of responsibility. Traditionally, the family had the responsibility to instruct the children into the development of the societal values. As adults, they had to portray a high level of humanity, good heart, and social responsibility. Then, people, mostly men, who wanted to become Bashingantahe, had to go through traditional initiation training. Bashingantahe had to ensure that there was harmony in the social environment, to contribute to the reconciliation and mutual consultation by giving advice, settling cases and sending individuals to court, if necessary. Today, people consult Bashingantahe because of their conduct, lifestyle, experience, as well as their moral, social and political commitment. This research came to shed a light to these values of Bashingantahe, which guide their practice in solving family and individual problems, as mediators, peacemakers, and advisors. The standards of Bashingantahe institution and Bashingantahe personal values and qualities can inspire social work education and practice in its different levels and methods of intervention.

  • Ikibiri in the Burundian Society: An indigenous model of solidarity and collaboration

Susan Muchiri, Jacqueline Murekasenge and Serges Calver Nzisabira

The Ikibiri is one of the patterns of collective culture of Burundian Society, which traditionally, was used as a method of social problem solving at community level. Ikibiri system can be simply defined as a team working system that generally aims at the accomplishment of a given “big” task, which would otherwise take a long of time to complete. Traditionally the practice consisted of bringing together community members’ strengths, to accomplish a task that could not be carried out by one person or would demand a considerably long time to complete individually. This was practiced mostly as way of mutual help, in the framework of solidarity and collaboration during different circumstances such us weddings, funerals, disasters etc. Thus, the system mostly aimed at helping people with difficulties (widows, orphans, poor people, edged people, and sick people). This practice was also common in the agricultural sector to increase productivity, which was and still is the main source of income / survival. In the contemporary Burundian society Ibikorwa rusangi (community work) follow the same pattern, whereby people work together to accomplish a specific task for public or social interest, such as construction of schools, roads and cleaning public places. Some other forms of solidarity under small association or cooperatives are also present but they are mainly socio- economic goal oriented. The research highlights that the Ikibiri System was appreciated not only because of the accomplishment of tasks within a short period of time, but also the participation of community members in solving social problems with the social obligation and responsibility to intervene weather it is about the individual, or family or community problem solving. Trust, reciprocity, social norms for community service and social engagement characterized the commitment of people who practice the Ikibiri system. Therefore, the system can serve as a model for community social work practice, as it is an investment strategy to help clients meet their needs at the community level.

  • A social work analysis of home-grown solutions and poverty reduction in Rwanda: Ubudehe traditional approach.

Rutikanga Charles

As part of the effort to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity after the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, the government of Rwanda has drawn on aspects of indigenous culture and traditional practices. One of these traditional practices and cultural values is Ubudehe, which has been re-introduced after it has been gradually lost since colonial times. It is a form of collective action at the village level, which is inclusive, covering men, women, and the most marginalized community members. The philosophy behind Ubudehe is to increase the level of participation and institutional problem-solving capacity at the local level by citizens and local government. Since the early 2000s, the government re-introduced Ubudehe as neo-traditional cultural institution in order to support the implementation of the country’s poverty reduction and development programs. An empirical study on indigenous and innovative models of social work practice was conducted. Field data were collected on traditional/indigenous approaches, including Ubudehe, from different categories of informants through focus group discussions (FGDs) and personal interviews. The research results show that social work profession plays a significant role in the whole Ubudehe process. While there have been some challenges in the administration and implementation, overall it has contributed to poverty reduction and lifted poor household out of absolute poverty in a post genocide Rwanda.

Jacqueline Murekasenge was a Lecturer and Head of Social Work and Community Development Department at Hope Africa University Bujumbura Burundi and the Burundi Country Coordinator of PROSOWO II before starting her PhD studies in International Development at University of Vienna in 2016. Jacqueline Murekasenge talked about “Free Primary Education Policy in Burundi: Aspiration at Local Community Levels and Policy Implementation”. The Policy has been implementation since in 2004, under the framework of MDGs and the Educational For All. Some factors related to poverty and lack of school material, are frequently reported to be challenging the effectiveness of the policy. But this research is assessing the aspirations of people concerned by education at local community level and its relevance, as it focuses on local community’s context, realities and experiences. The research is being conducted in rural areas.

Charles Rutikanga is Lecturer at University of Rwanda Department of Social Sciences. He is currently a PhD student at University of Vienna, Austria, Department of Development Studies, under APPEAR Scholarship. Charles holds a Master of social work and social administration from Uganda Christian University, Uganda (2012) and a Bachelor’s degree in social work from National University of Rwanda (2006). Before joining academia, Charles worked as social work practitioner for 3 and served both junior and senior management positions. As a lecturer and a researcher, Charles has been involved in the implementation, and coordination of different research projects at University of Rwanda, including PROSOWO I (2011-2014) and PROSOWO II (2016-2019) Projects that were sponsored by Austrian Development Cooperation under APPEAR program. He has also served as a Visiting lecturer at Tulane University, USA, Makerere University, Uganda and Gothenburg University, Sweden. During the International Social Work Conference which took place in March 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda, Charles gave two presentations one on his PhD research, “Lives in Adversity: The Experiences of Street Children in the City of Kigali” and the second presentation was on “Ubudehe traditional approach: A social work analysis of home-grown solutions and poverty reduction in Rwanda” a study which focuses on indigenous and innovative models of social work practice. Initial findings establish that development programs in place are informed by cultural practices and are more or less similar to social work models of helping individuals, families, groups and communities and one of these models is Ubudehe which played a significant role towards poverty reduction in post-genocide Rwanda.