Crown Princess Mary of Denmark inaugurates a Youth Centre in Tierkidi Camp, Ethiopia

On 16 February 2015, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark inaugurated a Technical Vocational Training Centre for South Sudanese refugee youth in Tierkidi camp in Gambella region of Ethiopia. The training centre which is funded by DANIDA and implemented by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) seeks to train refugee youth on various vocational skills and to serve as a recreational centre for refugee youth in the camp.

During the inauguration, Her Royal Highness (HRH) who is the patron of DRC, accompanied by the Danish Minister of Trade and Development, Mogens Jensen, observed and interacted with refugee youth going through a module on entrepreneurship. 150 refugees are currently enrolled in the entrepreneurship class with 49 of them being refugee women aged between 18 – 29 years. The refugee youth have a variety of courses to choose from such as business literacy classes; construction and electric installation.

The delegation noted the refugee’s keenness to improve their lives by learning new skills at the youth centre despite their plight as displaced persons and the traumatic experiences they faced during their flight from South Sudan following eruption of violence in December 2013.

“Having visited the camp, one is acutely aware of the enormous humanitarian consequences of the meaningless conflict in South Sudan. Especially women and girls are vulnerable during crises likes this one and may endure violence and sexual assault both during the crisis itself and while in displacement. Life in a refugee camp can be hard, too - not least for young unaccompanied girls,” said the Danish Minister of Trade and Development, Mogens Jensen, after the visit.

HRH also participated in a focus group discussion with refugee girls who discussed among other issues the challenges that refugee girls go through while in displacement. The focus group discussion targeted refugee girls aged between 15 – 19 years.

“DRC hopes that through such sessions, refugee girls can find a safe space to share their challenges, dreams and learn from each other on how to cope with their situation of displacement. In addition we will also complement these sessions with individual and group counselling sessions in order to build the resilience of the refugee youth,” said Rakel Larsen, DRC Emergency Protection Advisor.

DRC with the support of DANIDA hopes to construct a similar youth centre in Kule camp which neighbours Tierkidi camp and currently hosts over 46,000 refugees. The centre will also have similar technical vocational courses and facilities such as a library and playground for the refugee youth.

During the rest of the visit around Tierkidi camp, HRH and the Danish Minister of Trade and Development visited other DRC implemented projects such as a water point and grinding mill. The Crown Princess was briefed on DRC’s efforts to deliver safe water to the thousands of refugees within Tierkidi and Kule camps daily. She was also able to interact with a group of refugee women who form the Grinding Mill Management Committee that oversee the running of the grinding mill. The women noted that the grinding mill has assisted them to reduce their workload of having to travel long distance to the nearby town of Itang – where they would go to grind their sorghum and corn.

The HRH and Danish Minister were accompanied during the visit by other dignitaries such as: Danish Ambassador to Ethiopia, Mr. Stephan Schoneman, Deputy Director of the government refugee agency – ARRA, Mr. Ayalew Aweke, UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia, Mr. Valentin Tapsoba, as well as the Head of UNHCR’s Sub-Office Gambella, Ms. Angele Djohosso.

Danish Refugee Council has been operationAL in Gambella region since 2011 providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. Since the break out of violence in South Sudan in December 2013, DRC has continued to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the thousands of South Sudanese refugees by delivering safe water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, shelter construction, training youth on vocational skills as well as providing individual and group counselling.