Fartum Garad fled Somalia to a Kenyan refugee camp after militia attacked his home and killed his father four years ago. He joins the only living relative in Nairobi. Fartum was able to get help, even continue his education, even during a pandemic, thanks to the US-funded aid group, RefuSHE.
“During the pandemic, we were given cell phones and we studied at home. It’s a bit difficult because the internet network is not good, and is often disturbed by neighbors. It is very difficult to fully concentrate while studying. Sometimes we don’t listen well to the teacher’s explanation,” said Fartum Garad
RefuSHE helps refugee women and girls in Kenya who are more likely to drop out of school and be exploited than men. The coronavirus pandemic makes them even more vulnerable, said RefuSHE Kenya CEO Geoffrey Thige.
“They are the ones who are vulnerable to gender-based sexual violence. At the household level, when they have free time, they end up being in dire need, and being poor, they are also vulnerable to prostitution. This is the economic challenge these young girls face.”
RefuSHE provides not only safe housing for refugee girls but also education and job skills training.
Since the age of two, Ethiopian refugee Dera Anyanya has been living in Kenya with her parents. The RefuSHE Girls Empowerment Program has helped her pursue her dream of becoming a computer programmer.
“As refugees, mothers, generally we are considered as women who should stay at home, do housework, get married, have children, take care of children, take care of the family. As a result, more and more refugees. Men or boys are more educated than girls,” explained Dera Anyanya.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says there are more than 80,000 urban refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya, with 80 percent of them women and children.
UNHCR Kenyan spokesperson Eujin Byun revealed, “They face many difficulties related to cultural barriers, which forced them to marry or marry early. In addition, they are exposed to a lot of sexual violence and gender-based violence, plus a lack of educational and livelihood opportunities.”
These are the challenges faced by refugee women and girls in Kenya. Aid groups such as RefuSHE are reaching out to address these challenges. [ka/jm]