"She does not know, how many that raped her"

When Fardosa was 14 years old she suffered an epileptic attack in the market and fainted. She does not know, how many raped her, while she was unconscious. Today her mother is afraid to leave her alone for even just a second. Aid from Danish Refugee Council has given them an opportunity to start a business together.
 
 

It has been eight years, since Fardosa was raped in the market of her home town in Somalia. She suffered an epileptic attack and fainted.  

"She does not know, how many raped her," Fardosas mother Ashos explains.

The two women are sitting together talking about their subsequent life in Nairobi where they today are trying to survive as refugees. They left Somalia after the rape. Asho had been left by her husband when she was pregnant and she was afraid her sick daughter would be attacked again.

She is still afraid something might happen to her daughter, if she has an attack and faints when she is by herself. Therefore mother and daughter are always together.

"I am afraid she will be raped again. That is why I look after her always," says the mother and looks at her daughter.

She pulls her turquoise scarf aside revealing large scars on the top of her right arm. She then pulls the scarf aside on her forehead and reveals large, wide marks in the skin. The attackers left her with them after the rape in the market. They also left her with the son, who came into the world nine months later.

"The neighbors yells at my daughter and calls her son a bastard. Often they shout at him so he cannot go to school," Asho tells.

A small helps makes a big difference

The family has had a hard time getting help and support from their neighbors in Nairobo. But through Danish Refugee Council they got the opportunity to start a small business, which now sustains them. 

"We received a small amount of money, so we could start to buy fabric," says Asho and pulls out colorful fabric from a bag to show it.

They have the fabric made into dresses, that they then sell in the evening at the roadside in Nairobi. It is hard work and not much money is made. But it has made the world of difference in their lives.

"Because of DRC I can now afford to feed my children. If we had not received money from the organization we could not have started our business. We would like some more money, so we can expand our business, because if we do not go to the market one night, we do not eat."

Mother and daughter does not have a stand or permission to sell their dresses. Therefore they are always alert, so they are not terrorized by authorities.

"Is is very hard to be a refugee here. I do not want to be a refugee, but what can I do?"

Difficult to be a refugee

Kenya is one of the countries in the world, which has taken in the most refugees. Many of the neighboring countries are affected by long term conflicts and that has made its mark on the capital. Around 65.000 refugees are living here in spite of the fact that Kenya a few years ago decided that all refugees needed to be relocated to the refugee camps. That law is not enforced today, but it is still difficult to get by as a refugee in Nairobi. It is hard to obtain the official documents, which will allow one to work or start a business. For many refugees it is also more of less impossible to open a bank account.

Danish Refugee Council works a great deal with refugees in Nairobi and a great focus in on livelihood. One of the key ways is helping people to start small businesses like Asho and Fardosas dress shop.

"We help them find a need in the market, so they do not compeed with eight others, who am selling the same thing right next to them. When they know what to sell, we help them get started," says David Kang'ethe, who is the Country Director for DRC Kenya.

A few years ago DRC-Kenya with UNHCR published a report about refugees in Nairobi entitles 'Living on the Edge'. That is a very fitting description for the vast majority of the refugees, says David Kang'ethe:

"It is not an easy life, even if it has improved in some areas the last years. Danish Refugee Council is part of the Urban Refugee Protection Network, where we for instance have done a lot of advocacy with the banks in order to let them open bank accounts for refugees. Many Kenyans are also living on the edge of poverty, but refugees are particularly vulnerable. One of the main reasons is limited access to markets since movement of refugees is restricted. Some refugees have also reported cases of extortion by corrupt enforcement officers. Every night Asho and Farosho faces that reality when they go to the market to sell their dresses, so there will also be money for food that evening."

Every night Asho and Farosho faces that reality when they go to the market to sell their dresses, so there will also be money for food that evening.