KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) --
For months, Louise Dushimirimana and her fellow
Burundian refugees at Mahama camp have been making handicrafts, a
little initiative to reduce dependence on handouts.
On Thursday, Dushimirimana and her colleagues felt their efforts
were being recognized.
In stepping up efforts to make the Burundian refugees self reliant,
the Rwandan Government and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) Thursday
inaugurated a business facility for them.
The facility worth 400,000 U.S. dollars will help women and girls
with handicraft skills to make various products for sale.
The Rwandan Government and UNHCR strategy aims to empower refugees
to stand on their own feet rather than depending on humanitarian
assistance over times.
Dushimirimana said that the facility will enable them to produce
more handcrafts products and to teach other refugees the life
Jacqueline Murorunkwere, is another refugee, and the social affairs
representative of refugees in the camp.
She said in addition to promoting livelihoods, the center will also
enhance mutual partnership and cooperation between stakeholders to
prevent sexual and gender-based violence in the camp.
“Refugee women are often victims of violence and discrimination.
This new facility will contribute to refugees supporting each other
to resolve their problems, strengthen their resilience and become
self-reliant, as well as preventing sexual and gender-based violence
in households,” she said.
The mother of three said even when life is not easy for women
refugees, the inauguration of the facility was an encouragement to
develop oneself, earn livelihoods, and make life worth living.
In the new center, women working in cooperatives are paid for
producing high quality, modern design handicrafts which are exported
and marketed in the United States, as well as school uniforms.
Through such market-based livelihoods initiatives, refugees are
empowered to contribute not only to the economy of the refugee camp,
but also to the development of Rwanda and its economy, officials
“Today we were reminded that nothing should stop us from aiming
higher in life. Personally, nothing will prohibit me from developing
my family, the country that is hosting me, and participating in
searching for peace in Burundi,” added Murorunkwere.
Mahama refugee camp opened in April 2015 following the influx of
Burundian refugees. Today it is home to 53,000 refugees.
Saber Azam UNHCR Rwanda country representative, said while female
refugees may sometimes face vulnerabilities they are also normal
citizens of the world, and nothing should stop them from dreaming
big, participating in building peace in the camp but also for the
future when they shall have returned to their country.
“This opportunity centre is among the best things we can do to
support refugee women in the camp, which is also critical to
building gender equality among the community,” he said.
Rwanda’s minister of refugees affairs Seraphine Mukantabana said
that the center will open doors to skilled women to benefit from
their skills instead of folding hands to wait for handouts.