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Braving Dust storms, Women Plant Seeds of Hope
By UN Women
“The lack of livelihood opportunities is a contributing factor to sexual and gender-based violence at the camp.” — Idil Absiye, Peace and Security Specialist with UN Women Kenya
In the world’s largest refugee complex – the sprawling Dadaab settlement in Kenya’s North Eastern Province – women listen attentively during a business management workshop held at a hospital in one of its newest camps, Ifo 2.
Leila Abdulilahi, a 25-year-old Somali refugee and mother, has brought her five-month-old along, while her four other children wait at home. She asks question after question, eager to learn more. Leila has lived in the camp for the past three years and has no source of income, so her family depends on the rations distributed by the World Food Programme (WFP).
Unlike others, who have called Dadaab home since 1991, at the start of the civil war in Somalia, Leila is a ‘new arrival’ – a term used for those who came after the 2011 drought and more recent military intervention against extremist groups.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of September 2014 there were 341,359 registered refugees in Dadaab — the world’s largest refugee camp — half of whom are women.
“We are afraid to go fetch firewood in the forest. Bandits also attack us in our own homesteads and rape us,” says Leila. “If I had the money I would just buy firewood and I wouldn’t have to go or send my daughter to the forest.”
I want to open a shop. With the profit I make, I will buy clothes, vegetables and fruits for my children,” says Leila.
She and 300 other vulnerable women will be trained in business management and horticulture agriculture and supported to start a business that will help sustain their families.
Higala Mohammed, a farmer from Somalia, is optimistic about the group’s labour. Inspired, she has also set up a small vegetable garden next to her makeshift tent where she grows barere, a traditional Somalian vegetable. “We need all the nutrients we can get here,” she adds.
Leila’s pathway to independence makes her hopeful. “I want to work and support my family, even when I return home someday — and I will open a bigger shop,” she says.