UN Women in collaboration with other UN agencies (IOM and UNFPA) under the auspices of the Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (JP GEWE), UNHCR and members of the Urban Refugees Network, held an Open Day on 10th December.
By Tabitha Icuga
UN Women in collaboration with other UN agencies (IOM and UNFPA) under the auspices of the Joint Programme on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (JP GEWE), UNHCR and members of the Urban Refugees Network, held an Open Day on 10th December. The Open Day provided a platform for amplifying the voices of refugee women by enabling them to speak about their hopes and concerns regarding the ongoing voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees. It was an opportunity to also engage with key decision makers in the Government of Kenya as well as the Federal Republic of Somalia. The Open Day which was officially opened by Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, the Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, has become an annual event during which women’s roles in peace building as promoted by UNSC 1325 are highlighted. Also present was by H.E. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia, Commissioner Badu Katelo, Commissioner of Department of Refugees, Mr. Raouf Mazou, UN High Commission for Refugees Country Representative and Ms. Zebib Kavuma the UN Women Country Representative.
Ms. Work Zewde recognized that the scale and complexity of the voluntary repatriation process was enormous, but that at that heart of it were ‘people – men, women, youth and children who look forward to a peaceful place they can permanently call home.’
This year’s Open Day was attended by refugee women and men from both urban areas and Dadaab camp. “There is no wrong or right view, express all your views, give us as many views as possible” said Raof Mazou, UNHCR Representative for Kenya
Challenges faced by a refugee woman in Kenya
A refugee woman giving her views at the open day held in Nairobi
Fatuma Mohammed came to Dadaab refugee camp at the age of five. Her biggest concern has been the insecurity at the camp “We have faced insecurity, in the form of rapes, bandits who attack women come from the forest”.
Altu Forsa a young refugee residing in the urban areas recounted incidents of extortion at the hands of the Police. “The urban refugee children are being harassed for identification, we are therefore asking the security agents to have dialogue and stop this”. Altu however thanked the Government of Kenya and UNHCR for providing assistance while in refuge and as they continue to look for a durable solution for them.
Ready to return home?
“We are from Somalia and we love our country” Said Fadumo Hassan Dahur, a refugee from Dadaab. “We want to go back when we are fully equipped with skills, knowledge but our major concern is if there are structures already put for us in Somalia?”
Dekha Mohammed further added that returning home was best, but peace for everyone was also very important. “East or West home is the best . We want clean water, electricity, quality food. If the government can provide that then we can go home.”
Mr. Badu Katelo, Commissioner of the Department of Refugees emphasized that voluntary repatriation means helping people go back home. “This means you provide them with security, health, education for them to go back home. We will work with UNHCR and other UN agencies to ensure that repatriation is favorable”. Mr. Katelo gave examples of the 1991 and 1992 Ethiopia and Sudan repatriation processes respectively. “The Ethiopians went back home, therefore it is a good opportunity to go back and rebuild your country, nobody wants to be a refugee forever.” He further added that refugees will be consulted and engaged in the whole repatriation process
L-R: Ms. Lizzie Chigoti(Executive Director, Heshima Kenya), Mr. Badu Katelo ( Commissioner of Department of Refugees, Mr. Raouf Mazou (UNHCR Country Representative), H.E. Mohammed Ali Nur (Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia to Kenya) and Ms. Zebib Kavuma(UN Women, Country Representative)
On 10 November, 2013 the government of Kenya, the Federal Republic of Somalia, and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) signed a Tripartite Agreement. The Agreement outlines the procedures and legalities for the voluntary repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have been living in Kenya for over two decades. According to UNHCR, there are currently 474,483 registered Somali refugees in Kenya, with the vast majority living in the sprawling Dadaab complex of camps in the east of the country
For more information please contact:
Idil Absiye, Peace and Security Specialist