Jean Berchmans Siboniyo reveals why he opted for working with women and youth empowerment

Here was delivering a speech at the Global Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. after his selection in a tough competition with other fellows from different big universities in USA.

Currently at Cornell University as a Humphrey fellow, Jean Berchimas Siboniyo is leaning more about Agriculture and Rural Development to boost his work at AMEBE, a local NGO he founded.

«My work is highly linked with my history. I am a son a rural woman who did not get a chance to go to higher education because, even if she was brilliant in class, she was forced to drop school by her mother (my grandma) to help her family chores. My grandmother was also influenced by the common belief in the culture that “a girl does not need to go far with education”. I am also a witness of the consequences of poverty as I half-broke my spine at the age of 14 when I was obliged to carry a 110 pounds bag of cement for construction, trying to get school copybooks and school fees. What happened to my mama and I, is still a reality in my neighborhood. That is why I chose to change the status.

If you allow me, let us think about these different questions:

What is the main problem in your community that is impeding women from getting what they deserve?
What public policies are already available to allow both girls and boys get good education?
How is does an empowered women looks like in terms of access to her health and that of her offspring?
How likely women are consulted in making decisions on the welfare of the community?
What are we, as leaders, helping women cope with poverty and decide for their own future and that of their offspring and the community?
Recognizing that I cannot solve all the problems in the community, my mentors’ team composed  of women, young and men have decided to focus on providing entrepreneurial education through trainings for economic resilience, social and community leadership.

What about youths? In many lands, youths are viewed as a layer of population to blindly execute decisions made by the government and/or older men. However, think about the change social media, mostly invented by young people. Think about yourselves when you began with what you are doing, back in 5 years and see where you are now.

Our 5 years’ experience working with women and youths have brought to us surprising results. Indeed, we have taken themfrom hopeless individuals to social entrepreneurs and community leaders.

To be able to reach those results we had to apply servant leadership. With this kind of leadership, we strive to teach by example by taking the lead in community services and let them witness truthfulness of the possibility of the problem solving by the community itself.  

I hope that you all agree with me that Economic development is a multi-and-interdisciplinary process and a result of a combination of efforts in different areas of life as well cooperation between agents in communities both locally and internationally.

Sadly, individualism is killing us and our leadership dear leaders. One African saying states: “If you want to fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together”. Therefore, it’s our choice between going alone and lose or going together and win. But as for me, I see in each one of you, an image of a partner in the near future.

Now is the time to synergize, to combine our efforts and strategies for a greater impact in our communities.

Thank you. »

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