Ninette and her mum were about to go to bed when they heard movement outside the house. They took the torch and went out. Ninette’s three stepbrothers were standing there. They had three cows and were about to take them away with them.
One of the brothers grabbed the torch Ninette was holding and stamped on it so it broke. Then they disappeared into the darkness with the cows. A couple of days later, Ninette’s mum went into the village. She told Marc from FVS Amade’s Child Protection Group in the village what had happened.
“You need to tell the village leaders about this,” he said. Ninette’s mum went with Marc to the office of the village leaders and told her story again. After a few days, Ninette’s mum and big sister went into town to tell a judge as well. Marc had called one of FVS Amade’s lawyers, who had promised to help.
In Burundi, women and girls cannot inherit when a man dies. Only boys can inherit. So when Ninette’s dad met another woman, her mum just got a small piece of land for a house. Her dad’s new wife had three boys and she thought that all the land and all the animals should belong to her sons when the dad died.
When Ninette was six years old, her dad died. Her stepbrothers didn’t let her or her mum have any of her dad’s fields. They also wanted to have the cows that her dad had bought and that Ninette’s mum had kept.
Marc spoke to FVS Amade’s lawyer, who contacted the village leaders. Together they managed to convince Ninette’s stepbrothers to share some of the land. Ninette remembers how Marc, the lawyer and the head of the village spent the whole day going round the fields measuring. Ninette’s mum and stepbrothers stood by and watched. In the end, Ninette and her sister got part of their dad’s old field.
It was worse with the cows, which are very valuable in Burundi. When FVS Amade’s lawyer tried to get the stepbrothers to give the cows back, they said no. But one day when Ninette came home from school, the cows were standing there again, grazing.
“We won in court!” said her mum. Ninette’s stepbrothers were cross, but when Ninette met one of them on the path outside the house, he said hello. That had never happened before. Ninette realised that the court ruling had put an end to all the rows.
Ninette’s stepmother and her sons wanted to take the cows and leave Ninette with no inheritance, but FVS Amade helped her to get them back.
Marc from the village’s Child Protection Group contacted FVS Amade’s lawyer, who got Ninette’s stepbrothers to share the land left by her father and got a court to rule that she should also get to keep the cows.