Thierry Kajeneza grew up in war-torn Burundi, seeing women and girls being mistreated. When he reached manhood, he started an advocacy group called ICIRORE C’AMAHORO (“mirror of peace” in Kirundi) with a peer. The group, active in Ngozi province, works to stop violence against girls and women as part of its broader human rights and health mission.

Here are eight ways Kajeneza advocates that anyone can help girls and women:

Thierry Kajeneza, front center, and a colleague tell rural women in Burundi about their rights. (Courtesy of Theirry Kajeneza)
  1. Pass better laws. Create laws and enforce existing laws that protect women from discrimination and violence, including rape, beatings, verbal abuse, mutilation, torture, “honor” killings and trafficking.
  2. Educate girls. Highlight the value of girls’ education and women’s contributions to economic development.
  3. Resolve conflicts peacefully. Promote resolution of disputes by including perspectives of women and girls.
  4. Train women. Strengthen women’s ability to earn money by providing skills training.
  5. Stop child marriage. Sensitize the public to the violation of human rights inherent in child marriages.
  6. Encourage women to vote. Talk about the value of women’s votes and encourage female candidates.
  7. Raise awareness of poverty, especially of the poor conditions some rural women face.
  8. Explain human rights. Tell people their responsibilities under international and national human rights laws.

In 2010, Kajeneza was one of a select group of young Africans invited to the Man Up Young Leaders Summit in Johannesburg, where participants planned efforts to advance gender equality in their local communities. (The Man Up campaign is a collaboration of the Clinton Global Initiative based in New York and the Vital Voices Global Partnership in Washington.)

Kajeneza said Burundi’s local and national governments have responded positively to ICIRORE’s work. “This issue of gender violence will be solved if we all stand together,” he said.

“All women deserve the right to live free from fear.” ~ President Obama

In the United States, President Obama launched a campaign called the “It’s On Us” initiative to help put an end to sexual assault. The president and other high-profile officials and celebrities are asking all Americans  to make a personal commitment to step off the sidelines and be part of the solution.