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Newly opened centre at Mahama camp | Coastweek

KIGALI (Xinhua)-- Saber Azam (c), UNHCR Rwanda country representative dances with a Burundian refugee girl while a Burundian refugee woman sells handicraft items at the newly opened centre at Mahama camp in eastern Rwanda on March 9, 2017. 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 4,000 U.S. dollars will facilitate women and girls with handicraft skills to make various products for sale. XINHUA
New facility to boost self reliance bid for Burundian refugee women  

KIGALI, March 10 (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 skills.

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 noted.

“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. 

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