A mere thought of her journey from South Sudan to Uganda boarder brings tears to her eyes, as 23-year old Nancy Maneno cuddles on to her 6-month old baby. She soaks in more tears while reminiscing of the attack on her family during the war. "When the war broke out, my three children and I stayed in the bush for days with no food. Coming to such a peaceful environment in Uganda is a like miracle" she says. Next to her is 27-year old Betty Ekisa who came to Bidibidi refugee settlement in August 2016 after her home was attacked by rebels in South Sudan. She walked for two days with her husband and 4 children to the Ugandan boarder, where they were later transported to the settlement.
Betty and Nancy are comforted by 34-year old Josephine Ayuru who describes the skills they just gained from a short-term training in soap making as transforming. Josephine is the treasurer of Manjoora women’s group comprised of 30 women to which Betty and Nancy belong. "After escaping South Sudan, my life is changing for the better. Now I am busy making soap with my women’s group and selling it at the market. Working together, and being able to trade and sell at the market, gives us a great opportunity to learn new things and to secure some financial stability", she adds.
These three women have one thing in common. Despite being victims of the South Sudan conflict they have put their tragic tales aside to work and support each other in these difficult times. Manjoora women’s group is found in Bidibidi refugee settlement area, the largest settlement in the world hosting 272 000 refugees.
The women’s group was formed by CEFORD, a community empowerment organisation for livelihoods under the consortium led by Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and were trained in livelihood actions based on the participatory driven Enabling Rural Innovations (ERI)/ Participatory Action and Enterprise Development (PAED). As part of collaborative efforts between livelihood and skills interventions, Belgian Development Agency (BTC) has trained the women in their pilot skills development through an entrepreneurship voucher scheme. The goal is to enhance livelihood and labour market relevant skills for youth, women and girls of the refugees through short term vocational training and entrepreneurship support.
Group members such as Nancy, Betty and Josephine gain skills in soap making for subsistence and income generation. This will empower them financially. Manjoora women’s group plan to specialize in soap making business for their zone in Bidibidi refugee settlement and empower fellow women outside their group for financial stability. The group has 30 members, all women, who meet twice a week.
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