The many faces of Dadaab

“The leader”

38 year-old Ubah Omar Ali is a female 'block' leader in Dagahaley camp, Dadaab. She met her husband in the camp and has 6 children.

“I knew the former block leader and her work and when she went back to Somalia the community came to me in the position and I became a leader in 2015. In my job I go around the community with hygiene promoters or others needing to spread messages, and I mediate problems between people in my block. I really like my work. What I do, I do for my children and my community. My work has direct impacts on people and it is something I can see. It makes me happy to remove problems from my community. My favourite part of the role is encouraging girls to go to school. Education starts at home; if a mother is educated then her children – the product of her – will grow up educated. I have seen a lot of changes in the camp – for example in the interaction with different communities – we talk much more with people from other cultures now and females are being given a chance to lead now. We never used to do this. Back in Somalia women can't have any leadership role. Here it is freer – women are free to do whatever they like. I've adapted to life here and it would be very hard for me to go back now.”

“The activist”

30 year-old Abdi Aden Bille came to Dadaab in 1992 when he was 8 years old. He is part of an all-male group in the camp that work to combat female genital mutilation.

“When I first arrived in 1992 life at that time was very difficult. This place was a desert and very dusty and it was my first time being a refugee – there were no people around, not even animals. At that time there was only CARE and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency).

We formed the group “men of action” in 2001 as 6 people and now we have 30 members. We conduct focus group discussions and training with girls and their mothers on their rights. So many girls died from bleeding during circumcision – maybe 10-20% of women had to give birth in hospital through surgery because of the damage caused by circumcision. We want our mothers and girls to stop. When we formed the group we had to first move to Sunna [less extreme version of FGM] because we couldn't tell them to stop straight away. Our community would not accept it.”

“The non-Somali”

42 year-old Gladys Gaba Cyrus came to Dadaab from Yei in South Sudan in 1995. She fled the country after getting involved in student strikes against Sharia law. She is a single mother of five and her husband left her alone in the camp to go back to South Sudan.

“CARE is a grandmother of refugees in Dadaab. When I first came I joined a women's group through CARE and we were given a loan to start a tie-dye business and the materials and dyes to set up a business. CARE also supported us as a group after with a scrap collecting business. I have gained a lot in CARE, even my experience of becoming a leader I got through CARE when I was elected general chair leader for youth, because I was trained in leadership skills through CARE. I didn’t know I had the skills to lead but those around me noticed and told me I should become a leader. Now, I am able to stand and speak for myself. I am able to care for my children and educate them. My firstborn now is Nairobi in university after finishing CARE education and working with CARE.

I appreciate what CARE has done for women – especially me, and I hope one day I am able to get out of refugee life and I will be able to support myself and my family. Even though I am a single mother I am not defeated in life. There are a lot of women who don’t know there rights and what to do and they need support. Women have been the victims in every society because we are vulnerable and we need to keep nurturing those who are down at the bottom and bring them up with education. When I came I was a student, I had never worked and here I have learnt business, how to work and how to balance it with my family and how to help my community with ideas. If I go back to my country – if there is peace – I am sure I will make some changes to the women, children and youth and even those that need advice as I have had so many trainings. We are tired of refugee life – living under this hot sun. My children were born in refugee life and have grown in refugee life. 25 years in the same place – your mind does not develop.”

“The teacher”

31 year-old primary school teacher Ibrahim Ali Mohamed in Dagahaley camp, Dadaab, northern Kenya.

“We have 1,762 pupils in our school, 755 of which are girls. I've grown up under CARE in Dadaab. I came here age 6 in 1992 and started studying in 1993. I can't say what CARE has done for Dadaab in words. I studied under the sponsorship of CARE and as a head teacher I still work closely with CARE. Last year our school got the highest KCE [Kenyan national exams] scores in the whole of Dadaab and the second highest in Garissa county [the county which Dadaab is in]. I became a head teacher here in July 2015 and I have worked with CARE since 2005 when I started as an untrained teacher. I want to be a role model to my 2 children. I arrive at the school at 6am and leave at 6pm – so I've very busy.

When I first came [to Dadaab] life was very tough but thanks to organisations here it got better, but it took a long time to adapt to the new environment. Now slowly by slowly things have changed for the better. We studied, went to university, and now the youth are employed as teachers, social workers, nurses…the difference is big.”

“The water provider”

Siyado Abdi Muhamed is a refugee Water Quality Monitor with CARE in Dagahaley camp, Dadaab. She has a husband and 3 children in the camp.

“I came to Dadaab, aged 5 years in 1992 from Kismayo in Somalia and I have never gone beyond the camp. I was very young when I came here. My father died back in Somalia and my mother died here. I don't know Somalia at all. All I hear is that there is war and fighting there. I know Somalia only by hearsay; I hear names like Mogadishu, but I don’t know them. I've never gone beyond Dadaab; I've never even visited Garissa [nearby town].

I have worked in a few different jobs including teaching assistant but this is my this is my favourite work; I've learnt a lot of things with this job, like how to treat water and I proper hygiene practices. I have taught my children and other children how to pass on the message of things like hand washing. Even my neighbours – I advise them if I see them doing things wrong. I use the money I make from this job to buy food, clothes and medication for my family.”

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