Skills For Life: Motherhood Support in Kakuma Camp and Kalobeyei Settlement

Research states that there are more displaced persons today than any other point in history. This displacement has been brought about by various reasons such as civil and political strife, persecutions either religious or political, environmental disasters, conflict and economic strains. Kenya is among one of the leading refugee-hosting countries in Africa with inhabitants from South Sudan, Somalia, DR Congo and Ethiopia.

Kakuma and Kalobeyei Settlement are refugee camps located in Turkana County that have taken up several refugees in recent years. As at 31st May 2019, UNHCR reported that a total of 476,695 refugees and asylum seekers live in Kenya. Of these, 190,181 are hosted in the Kakuma camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement. Women represent 49% of the total population.

Often, many women flee with their children and are faced with uncertainty when they get to the refugee camps. Language barriers, lack of basic needs and a sense of belonging, poor living conditions, unemployment and culture shock are some of the challenges they face every day. Skills for Life, a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) project that is implemented by Swisscontact seeks to strengthen the income-generating capabilities of youths from the host and refugee communities in Kakuma by enhancing their technical, financial, life and literacy skills. The project uses the Learning Group model to deliver non-formal technical skills training, which is complemented by structured apprenticeships, life skills and business development support. The capacity building sessions provide the youth with well-rounded skills that improve their competitiveness as they transition into the local market.

In order to encourage female participation, especially of young mothers, the project has integrated creche services within the training centres. These creches are manned by trained caregivers and stocked with several toys to occupy the children as their mothers focus on learning a new skill.

The bakery training group located in Kakuma IV is one learning group that has gained tremendously from this new addition. It comprises of 20 members; 1 male and 19 female, 11 of whom are mothers with children aged between six months to two and a half years.

‘Before the space was set up, it was very difficult for me to concentrate as I would always worry about my child getting burned or injured within the training premises. Now, my child can play and sleep in a safe place as I focus on learning this skill. I am able to actively participate and actually enjoy myself,’ explains Viviane Uwahamaro, a Congolese National who has a two- and half-year-old child. ‘The playing materials have really captured my child’s attention and given her an opportunity to play with other children her age within a safe and controlled environment’ adds the mother of two who was initially worried about how she would juggle attending training and taking care of her daughter.

Sengimana Joseline, who is also a member of the bakery learning group has a six-month-old child. ‘When I joined the training two months ago, my husband did not approve of my actions because our child was too young and he felt I would not give him the attention he needed. I would place my son under a shaded area outside the training room and constantly worry about him. Because of my divided attention, it took me a bit longer than others to fully grasp concepts. Fortunately, that changed when the creche was introduced. Now, I only dash out to breastfeed and come back into the training session immediately. Having a caregiver has been a big relief. I’m now more focused during the sessions and learning at par with other members of my group’ explains the 26-year- old who has been in the camp for 9 years.

‘The space has also provided me with a private place to breastfeed,’ adds Joseline whose dream is to set up a confectionary shop and educate her son to the highest level possible.