What you need to know:
- Bukoso group leader, Mr Tawfic Suleiman from the DRC, says he has trained more than 400 women at Kakuma Refugee Camp.
- Most women start the course when they were completely blank. After one year, however, their skills are enhanced .
- The women, most of whom have little or no education, now have a reliable source of income every month. One can get as much as Sh40,000 depending on how hard they work.
When they fled their home countries years ago and joined Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana County, they did not know what the future held.
Seeing how difficult life would become, a few of the refugee women joined hands with those from the host community – Turkana – to empower one another.
With the guidance of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), they formed a group – Bukoso – where they get training on tailoring and undergo testing of National Industrial Training Authority (NITA).
Bukoso team leader, Mr Tawfic Suleiman from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), says he has trained more than 400 women.
When the training started a decade ago, focus was mainly on school uniforms but now, they are also learning emerging fashions.
“I train the women on tailoring and I currently have 400 students. We enrol them in grade two and three from NITA and once they are done, they get sewing machines,” says Mr Suleiman who came to Kenya in 2010.
“I have been a tailor for many years and continued with the trade even in Kakuma Refugee Camp; am grateful to LWF who employed me,” he adds.
Most women undergoing training start the course when they were completely blank. After one year, however, their skills are enhanced and they can handle a sewing machine.
“We also get professional designers from Nairobi to help the women sharpen their skills on market demands,” explains Mr Suleiman.
Filder Aparo Ochira, a mother of three from Uganda, arrived in Kakuma in 2005. She joined the Bukoso group and says she has learned how to saw bags and uniforms among other items.
She explains that after her husband abandoned her, she had to depend on this group to supplement what they get from the camp.
“Joining this tailoring group has helped me educate my firstborn right from kindergarten. The school in the camp is overcrowded, it is not good for children, so I took him to a private school within Kakuma town. My husband went to South Sudan and has never come back,” she elucidates.
Not well educated
Ms Ochira says the group has enabled her to provide what she has described as ‘quality education’ for her children.
“We are not well educated and the only thing that can help us get money is this tailoring. This is how I educated him until Form Four, which he completed in 2019. This job even provides basic needs for my family,” she says.
The women, most of whom have little or no education, now have a reliable source of income every month. One can get as much as Sh40,000 depending on how hard they work.
“Women are the main beneficiaries of this empowerment programme; the food we get from WFP (World Food Programme) is little and so if you do not have any work, you find yourself in an awkward situation and unable to feed your family. These women can now manage their diet and give their families the best,” says Mariah Abea Wilonjo, a Congolese mother of seven.
She says the group has enabled her to provide basic needs for her children.
“When I started working in 2012, I could earn roughly Sh3,000 to Sh4,000 but since 2015, I now earn over Sh10,000 per month. After five years, I noticed that I am more experienced in tailoring,” she says.
“When I work and my husband also brings what he earns, we are able to budget on how to move our family forward,” Ms Wilonjo discloses.
With the help of LWF, they easily get tenders from companies and schools, something that has boosted their lifestyle, making it better than that of other refugees. They sometimes get tenders worth as much as over Sh250,000.
Ms Sammy Lino from South Sudan and a mother of six says that unlike before, she is now more empowered and has her own money.
“Before joining Bukoso, I had to wait for my husband to fend for the family. I even brewed illicit liquor and it was difficult because you have to be wary of the police who could arrive anytime,” she narrates.
Since the inception of Kakuma Refugee Camp in Turkana County, there has been friction between the refugees and the host community (Turkana). The situation has, however, improved over the years with both sides embracing each other, leading to improved livelihoods and business.
Mercy Nang’ole says the presence of refugees has enabled her to employ herself.
“I joined Bukoso group in 2018; they trained me on tailoring uniforms and now I am self-employed; before I get the tenders from LWF, I tailor in front of shops in town. I am empowered to fend for my family unlike before,” she explains.