Jun.-Prof. Dr. Ulrike Krause | 16.02.2019 | 673 Aufrufe | Artikel

Refugee Youths as Development Partners, Not Merely Recipients

Ein Beitrag von Isreal Katembo

You are yet to find out how youth, who had no hope, have restored hope to many families and lives, how they are creating a positive livelihood and making an alternative in ensuring social and economic wellbeing.

My name is Isreal Katembo and I was born 1985. I was among thousands of refugees who were forced to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo for Uganda at teenage age in 1992. Up to date most refugees are fleeing violence emerging from ethnic-political conflicts between the government and different militia groups and foreign armed groups active largely in Kivu and parts of Ituri province.

When I reached Kyaka II refugee settlement in 1993, I could not smile because I have lost most of my friends in childhood during war in Beni, North Kivu. I witnessed deaths of other refugees and asylum seekers dying of hunger and diseases due to limited proper medical intervention.

Kyaka II is home for a diverse community including refugees and host community. The relationship has always been positive because refugees and host communities share natural resources like land, water, social services namely schools and health services. Yet, while attending school in the camp, classes were overcrowded with more than 200 pupils. Life was complicated without hope and clear vision for each child. And it was during this time, when I started realizing that the community members can play a role in their life, that we can change things.

KITAD Emblem, Copyright: Isreal Katembo

Initiating changes in the humanitarian camp world

Although humanitarian and development agencies are realizing some interventions, gaps remain because the people are not involved in the planning and implementation process. However, even when community members are involved, gaps in communication can persist due to language barrier, conflict of interest of top to bottom planning procedures and bureaucratic process.

While at Bukere primary school in 2005, I was elected the head prefect by fellow students and subsequently head prefect at the secondary school and the college. I had learnt that a leader is elected by all community members. However, this practice is not the same in semi-leadership structure for refugees in Kyaka II. Even though the activity of election is put in place, only individuals in the interest of those in power to support refugees are the ones who are allowed to participate in leadership because in my experience the nomination and electoral committee is made available by aid agencies only. Moreover, after college, I had realized that most people in the camp are not informed of their rights and children were dropping out from school on a large scale.

Children’s support

Together with others, I wanted to help and improve things. To this end, I mobilized three friends, Ntakiruti James, Baraka Benedict and Ishimwe Vannesa, to start up an early childhood development center. Our youth initiative is still operating and ranks the best in providing education to refugee and host communities around Kyaka II.

I further mobilized fellow youth whom I attended school with to form a community-based organization to provide interpretation and translation services to communities. As a result, the Kyaka Interpreters, Translators Association for Development (KITAD) emerged, with the aim of sensitizing communities and disseminating information about rights to new and old refugees, where to access different service providers, how and when to report any bleach of rights and laws. Although our group is now successful installed we had a difficult start: The group was tagged being subversive with the government, most members were threatened to be arrested and removed from the list of casual laborers in the camp, most members feared. Yet, KITAD now has 60 members and is registered as a community-based organization at the sub-county and Kyegegwa district.

Since members are in different villages, they provide paralegal services, following cases of domestic violence and report them to aid agencies in Kyaka II for further management. To a small extent, communities now have started demanding their rights every time they notice that their fundamental rights are being bleached.

Vocational Training

Vocational skills trainings are last resort when formal education is not an option. Together with a number of outgoing school youth, I initiated a vocational skills training center under the tree in Kyaka II. It is especially for youth who are not in the position to continue in the formal education system in Uganda (e.g., due to lack of school fees or food, or due to child-headed families, far distances to secondary schools, and diseases).

A critical focus is also put on women who often do not ordinarily qualify for financial support to start up a business and are rarely able to communicate in English, causing an overwhelming number of young women in Kyaka II to be unemployed. In addition to protection, youth therefore consistently demand programs with tangible skills to improve their livelihood potentials, and our training center seeks to increase capacity to find jobs, make job creator’s or self-employment, thus promoting self-reliance.

In connection with KITAD, it is operating a youth to youth wood working workshop that is training 20 youths in carpentry and joinery with business management skills, and essentially create hope among families.

Further Needs

With our initiatives we focused on supporting younger refugees thrive and meet their potential. Through access to education and trainings as well as community services, they were able to gain skills as well as improve conditions in the community in Kyaka II.

Our initiatives can only be seen as a starting point because during everyday life in Kyaka II, we continue to experience issues. Among others, refugees and host communities need to be trained in life skills training and support of self-help groups that are formed within communities. Investment to refugee innovations is a key in ensuring social stability and peaceful coexistence among asylum seekers and refugees as well as nationals. Given the scarcity of land for farming, aid agencies should consider technical skills that do not depend on farming only but furthermore includes, handcraft, carpentry and joinery, weaving and netting, tailoring among others. These will promote self-reliance.

Facilitation is required for more regular community dialogue, sensitization and campaigns working collaboratively with all stakeholder, to increase community knowledge about Ugandan laws, roles and responsibilities of each partners, domestic violence, basic education on conflicts management and the referral path way. Such local intervention promise to improve community coordination and trust in community leadership structures. This latter trust also links with leadership roles. Refugees normally do not trust those leaders elected on the interest of aid agencies. It has led to increased inter-personal conflicts among refugees and the leadership has failed to manage individual grievances. Refugees need to be given the right to elect leaders of their choice to decrease conflicts.

Finally, enabling youths to pursue education, further their skills and take part in decision-making is key. Youth is the future and our initiatives, most notably KITAD, has shown the vast potential youth has and gives to communities.

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