Women as Changemakers in Refugee Settings
POST AND PHOTOS BY MAGGIE ANDRESEN // PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2017
K. Beatrice is a single mother. At 32-years-old, she has three children, and lives in Village A of Mahama Refugee Camp, which houses over 50,000 Burundian refugees in Rwanda’s Kirehe District on the border of Tanzania. She smiles shyly when asked what she is thankful for, sitting placidly in her small home as children yell during play outside.
“I thank Gardens for Health International (GHI) because I never lack vegetables to feed my children, and I am able to get some to give to my neighbours that don’t have a kitchen garden. This makes me so happy.”
Beatrice was one of 475 Burundian mothers enrolled in GHI’s month-long training program in Mahama camp, providing adapted trainings in health and agriculture sensitive to camp conditions, with the goal of improving child health through guided instruction and agricultural support to establish home gardens for participants to increase dietary diversity and autonomy in food choice. GHI’s camp-modified model addresses the structural lack of sustainable solutions to malnutrition in refugee settings and acknowledges limited access to resources like water and firewood, focusing on how best to prepare well-balanced meals within those constraints.
“I learned a better way to grow vegetables and my garden is just perfect,” Beatrice said.
According to the UNHCR’s June 2017 report, just under 170,000 refugees and asylum seekers live in Rwanda, primarily hailing from neighboring Burundi and Congo. Most live in one of the nation’s six active refugee camps. The World Food Programme cites that 54% of Rwanda’s refugees are women. While conditions in Rwanda’s refugee camps far exceed the resources of surrounding nations, gender gaps continue to persist.
The UNHCR reports that 2.5 - 3 times more women than men are being treated for HIV at camp health centers. There is no public lighting installed in five of the six camps, Mahama excluded, which increases the risk of gender-based violence against women and girls under cover of darkness. Notably there are also no systems in place to support menstruating girls in schools, and so they regularly miss class and fall behind, or drop out. Sanitary pads are rated low as a purchasing priority against food and clothing, and so there is a trend of adolescent girls engaging in survival sex for commodities like menstruation supplies. Of 1,062 women surveyed by the UNHCR in Rwandan refugee camps, 31% responded affirmatively that they had engaged in sex in exchange for goods or money.
Nutritional deficiencies in pregnant and lactating women are of particular concern for children born into refugee conditions, as well as for their mothers. Anemia resulting from poor nutrition intake and common communicable diseases like malaria and parasitic infection tend to affect female refugees at higher rates. A danger especially during pregnancy, anemic women risk delivering low-birth weight babies more prone to suffer from malnutrition giving birth to and have higher mortality rates than non-anemic women. In Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, anemia was sourced as a major factor in 55% of maternal deaths. In Rwandan refugee camps, the UNHCR found over 40% of children aged 6 - 23 months were afflicted with anaemia, putting it above the WHO critical level.
Despite the numerous challenges mounted against them in refugee settings, women continue to prevail as changemakers. It is women who are at the forefront of long-term efforts to build community, create sustainable change, promote economic activity, and protect human rights. For families able to cultivate home gardens, women tend to and harvest the crops, increasing their family’s dietary diversity which is otherwise unachievable simply through consuming daily food aid rations that often lack sufficient nutritional capacity. Others generate side income through domestic work, construction, tailoring, or hairdressing.
Many women fleeing violence do so with only their children, their partners remaining in their home country due to visa issues, attempts to keep business alive, or involvement in conflict. That, or violence, has widowed them; as an example, more than a quarter of all Syrian refugee households are run by single women. These women keep their families intact, continuing to provide essential support as caretakers for children and income generators. Here, women have the power to create change for their families rather than to be the passive recipient of aid and welfare that keeps her and her family dependent on others for a livelihood.
GHI’s programming in Mahama and soon Kigeme camp, host to 18,000 Congolese refugees, strives to empower women to take charge of their family’s nutrition needs. Enabling women to efficiently keep their children healthy and well-nourished allows them to focus on and address the numerous other challenges they regularly face as refugee women. K. Beatrice reiterates the relief having a garden has provided for her and her family.
“The truth is that before I start taking the trainings, the condition of my life was not good at all. Before I had this garden, my child was malnourished but now I have it and I am able to get vegetables for her and everything is ok,” emphasized Beatrice. “I am happy because I have a kitchen garden and the health of my kids depends on it.”
The tenacity, courage, and strength of refugee women continues to inspire change in camp conditions, even as the gender gap works against them. Through education empowerment, women are better equipped with the tools to support their families through the conditional challenges faced in refugee settings.
Translation by Monica Mutoni
Abagore nk’abantu bazana impinduka mu nkambi
Umwanditsi & Amafoto na Maggie Andresen
Kamgaju Beatrice ni umubyeyi w’imyaka 32, afite aban 3 akaba aba muri village A yo mu nkambi ya Mahama icumbikiye impunzi z’abarundi zisaga 50,000 mu Rwanda mukarere ka Kirehe hafi y’umupaka w’u Rwanda na Tanzania. Amwenyurana isoni ubwo yabazwa icyo ashima, yicaye mu kazu ke gatoya abana be barimo gukinira hanze mu mbuga.
"Ndashima Umurima w’Ubuzima kubera ko ntago njya mbura imboga ngaburira abana banjye kandi nshobora no kubona izo guha abaturanyi banjye badafite uturima tw’igikoni. Ibi biranshimisha cyane."
Beatrice ni umwe mu bagore 475 bashyizwe muri gahunda y’umurima w’ubuzima igamiije gutanga amahugurwa y’ubuzima n’ubuhunzi bworozi agamije gutezimbere ubuzima bw’abana biciye mu mwabwiriza atangwa ndetse n’ubufasha ku buhinzi n’ ubworozi kugirango bafashwe gushyiraho uturima tw’igikoni mmu buryo bwo guha abo bagore kongera imirire itandukanye ndetse no guhitamo indyo ikwiye. Uburyo bwwashyizweho n’ umurima w’ubuzima bugaragaza ibura ry’ibisubizo ku mirire mibi mu nkambi kandi ikanagaragaza ibura ry’amazi n’inkwi bwita cyane ku ku buryo bwiza bwo gutegura ifunguro muri ibyo bibazo bihari. “ Nize uburyo bwiza bwo guhinga imboga kandi umurima wanjye ni mwiza cyane,” byavuzwe ba Beatrice.
Hagendewe kuri raport ya UNHCR yo muri Kamena 2017, impunzi 170,000 n’abashaka ubwihisho n’ibo baba mu rwanda abenshi bakaba baturuka mu Burundi and Congo. Bamwe baba mu nkambi 6 ziri mu Rwanda. Umurya mpuzamahamanga ushinzwe guteza imbere imirire ugaragaza ko 54% by’impunzi mu Rwanda ni abagore. Mu gihe imibereho yo mu nkambi mu Rwanda itandukanye cyane n’imitungo iri mu gihugu, umubare w’abagabo n’abagore ukomeje guhabana cyane.
UNHCR yashyize hanze raporo igaragaza ko abagore baruta abagabo inshuro 2.5-3 bafite agakoko gatera SIDA bakaba bafashirizwa ku bigo nderabuzima. Nta matara rusange ahari mu nkambi eshanu ukuyemo inkambi ya Mahama ibi bikaba byongera ihohoterwa rishingiye ku gitsina rikorerwa abagore mu gihe cya nijoro mu mwijima. Ikindi nuko nta buryo bwashhyizweho mu mashuli bwo gufasha abana b’abakobwa bajya mu mihango bigatuma basiba ishuli, bagasigara inyuma rimwe na rimwe bakareka ishuli. Kotegisi zihabwa agaciro gakeya kururusha kuguru imyenda n’ibyo kurya, abakobwa bato bakunze kwishora mu busambanyi kugirango bashobore kubona amafaranga yo kugura ibikoresho byo kwifashisha igihe bagiye mu mihango. Mu bagore 1,062 bakoreweho ubushakashatsi na UNHCR mu nkambi ziri mu Rwanda, 31% bavuze ko bahoze bishora mu busambanyi kugirango baboney ibikoresho bitandukanye n’ibyo kurya.
Ikibazo cy,imirire mibi mu bagore batwite ndetse n’abonsa bafite impungenge z’abana bavukira mu nkambi ndetse n’ababyeyi babo. Kugira amaraso make biterwa n’imirire mibi ndetse n’indwara n’indwara z’ibyorezo nka Malaria n’izindi bikunze kuzahaza abagore mu nkambi ku rugero rwo hejuru. Igiteye impungenge nuko abagore batwite bafite amaraso make bakunze kubyara abana bafite ibiro bike cyane bigatuma barwara indwara ziterwa n’imirire mibi ndetse akenshi hakabaho impfu z’abana nyinshi ugereranyije n’abagore bafite amaraso ahagije. Mu nkambi y’impunzi ya Dadaab yo muri Kenya, kugira amaraso make nibyo byatumy habaho imfu z’abababyeyi kurugero rwa 55%. Mu nkambi z’impunzi zo mu Rwanda, UNHCR yasanze abana bagera kuri 40% bari hagati y’amezi 6-23 bari bafite ikibazo cyo kugira amaraso macye.
Uretse n’immbagamizi nyinshi bahura nazo mu nkambi, abagore bakomeje kuzana impinduka. Ni abagore bakomeje gushyira imbaraga mu kubaka kominote, bazana impinduka nziza, bateza imbere ibikorwa bibyara umusaruro bakanarengera uburenganzi bwa muntu. Mu miryango ifite imirima, abagore nibo basarura imyaka bakongera imirire myiza mu bagize imiryango yabo ibi bikaba bitagerwaho babaye bicara bagategereza ibyo kurya by’imfashanyo bikunze kuba bidafite n’intungamubiri zuzuye. Abandi bagore bakura amafaranga mu gukora imirimo iciriritse nko kubaka, kudoda, gusuka imisatsi ndetse n’iyindi.
Abagore benshi bahunga ihohoterwa bakunze guhungana abana babo gusa, abagabo babo basigara mu bihugu byabo kubera kubura ibyangombwa bibemerera gusohoka mu gihigu rimwe na rimwe nabo bakivanga mu makimbirane. Aya makimbirane cyangwa ihohoterwa ryagize besnhi abapfakazi, urugero kimwe cya kane cy’imiryango imiryango iri mu nkambi zo muri Syria, iyobowe n’abagore batagira abagabo. Aba bagore bita ku miryango yabo, bagakomeza kuyifasha uko bikenewe, bakita no kubana babo. Ahangaha abagore bafite ubushobozi bwo kuzana impinduka mu miryango yabo nkaho kwicara ngo bategere imfashanyo ziva hanze kugirango babeho.
Gahunda yashyizweho n’umurima w’ubuzima muri Mahama ndetse vuba aha ikazatangizwa no mu nkambi ya Kigeme icumbikiye impunzi z’abanya congo zigera ku 18,000, ishishikajwe no guteza imbere abagore kwita ku mirire y’imiryango yabo. Ibi bizatuma abagore bita ku buzima bw’abana babo barya neza bizabashoboza guhangana n’izindi mbogamizi bahura nazo nk’abagore baba mu nkambi. K. Beatrice agaragaza ukuntu kugira akarim k'igikoni byatumye abona icyo agaburira umuryango we.
“Ukuri nuko mbere yo gufata amahugurwa, ubuzima bwanjye ntwi bwari bumeze neza rwose. Mbere yo guhinga aka karima, abana banjye bari bafite imirire mibi ariko ubu nshobora kubona imboga ngaburira umwana kandi ibintu byose ubu bimeze neza.” Byashimangiwe na Beatrice. “ Ndishimye kubera ko mfite akarima k’igikoni kandi niko nkesha ubuzima bwiza abana banjye bafite.
Umuhate, n’ubushobozi by’abagore bari mu nkambi bikomeje kuzana impinduka mu nkambi, n’igihe umubare w’abagore uruta uw’abagabo. Mu buryo bwo guteza imbere uburezi, abagore bafite ubushobozi bwo gufasha imiryango yabo n’igihe hari imbogamizi zitandukanye abantu baba mu nkambi bahura nazo.
Ongera imbara z’umugore wo mu nkambi uyu munsi umuha impano.
Byashyizwe mu Kinyarwanda na Monica Mutoni