Giving back: Solidarity amongst Burundian Refugee women in campsIn Nduta Camp in Kigoma Region, Tanzania, a jovial group of Burundian refugee women seated together, babies asleep on their laps and toddlers chasing each other in circles. The women are engaging in casual chats while they sew intricate and bespoke blankets. These spaces are a safe haven for them, especially in a camp that currently accommodates an estimated 92,800 Burundian refugees. The groups, which are gathered by Women Committee members from 21 zones, come together on a weekly basis to utilize their different skill sets.
In 2018, the vibrant members started their own “Giving Back” program, where they organized skills training sessions for other women in their community. Through the trainings, the women acquired valuable skills and received vital information on where to report cases of gender violence.
The Women's Committee was set up in 2017 by DRCs Community Based Protection Unit in Nduta and Mtendeli Camp, with support from UKAid. After the women were elected within their own village, DRC provided them with skills training, such as knitting, sewing, kitchen garden and tailoring. Awareness raising sessions were thereafter organized to sensitize them about their rights, services available in the camp and reporting mechanisms available for persons who have been abused or exploited.
The committee was set up to enable women to strengthen their knowledge and skills, both for themselves and to benefit their communities. It has provided women with a safe space to talk openly, share ideas and raise pressing issues.
“During the emergency, women had many problems with nowhere to report. We thought establishing the committee would be the best way to help them,” says Oliver Emmanuel, CBP Assistant.
The committees are autonomous and make decisions on what activities they want to promote in their zones, ranging from knitting training sessions to organizing meeting to discuss upcoming events. Knitting and sewing are popular as the skills can be used both at home or start up a small business. The challenge many face is lack of available materials and capital to venture in income generating activities to support their families.
Soline is a mother of nine, with the youngest being triplet boys. She attends the sessions organized faithfully, even when her three boys demand for her attention constantly. Soline hopes to be involved 100% in all activities, and become a leader in the group. She has integrated her 16-year-old twin girls who have learned valuable skills and become part of the support group.
“I want to learn how to knit so I can make clothes for my children and bags to sell. I did not know this before joining, I am happy with it,” Soline says.
The committee focuses on empowering women and enriching their lives through promoting self-reliance and establishing community support systems.
This is vital for women refugees as their future seems unclear. They are not passive victims but strong and courageous leaders, often the first ones to respond to the needs of their community
Despite enormous challenges faced in the camps due to limited resources and opportunities available, Burundian refugee women show great strength and resilience. They ensure their children, families and surrounding community members are supported and taken care of.