Food in Mtendeli.

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When God created man, he also provided food for him. This shows that without food, man will not survive and eventually die. We may say that food is life and the fuel of our human body.  Without food you can easily be attacked by various diseases, and in the end it will even effect your work and economic security.

Well how is the food situation in Mtendeli refugee camp?

Mtendeli is one of the Burundian refugee camps in Kigoma, Tanzania. There are more than 50,000 refugees living in the camp. Food distributed by the UNHCR for refugees, is only 1 kg of beans and 2,5 kg of maize flower every two weeks.

“We normally finish the 2 kg of maize flower within the first 3 days of the week, after that we suffer the whole week”, Alex (23).

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Within the camp there is no place for agricultural activities and the refugees are not allowed to go out ofthe camp to find food. This results in a hopeless life for refugees, because every day you keep thinking about what you will eat tomorrow.

“Our life is unstable like a flag. Some think it is better to die rather than seen children and old people complaining about hunger without any proper support”, Felix (22).

 

 

 

 

 

“Many children drop out of school because of food scarcity”, Eric (20).

We ask the government and other responsible entities to give us the chance to go outside the camp to nearby villages to find work or for agriculture activities. If not, we plea that the size of the camp should be increased in order to get more space for farming. We also need support in terms of agriculture equipment and skills from organisations and the government. The UNHCR need to increase food rations and ensure employment for youth.

“The Government and the different organizations should provide enough food for refugees in the camp”, Saleh (21).

It is better to die by a gunshot than hunger. We will be very thanks full for your support.

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By youth reporters in Mtendeli camp

«I am just one single girl from El Salvador representing thousands»

Vicky is 19 years-old, she lives in El Salvador with her mother and shares her experience of violence as a young girl advocate in her community.

In El Salvador, the phenomenon of gangs and organised crime terrorises the country: several communities and schools are being literally taken by gangs. Inside the schools, there is violence too, and everyone is at risk of being recruited by a gang. Children as young as 9 years-old are sometimes recruited.

Living through a war of violence

Violence exists everywhere in the world, but in my country, its rates reach alarming heights. Through the years, insecurity has taken all Salvadorian families. There is so much crime in our country that it very much looks like we’re living through a war.

Because they are easy targets, not only to abuse of but also to recruit, children and youth are by far the most affected by this violence, which happens a lot in schools.

Last year, 29 schools reported cases of human trafficking, 278 school centres reported having found guns inside students’ backpacks and 580 reported cases of drug-dealing in the school buildings. As a result, last year almost 69,000 young girls and boys dropped-out of school and 313 were murdered inside school or their surroundings.

Being an adolescent girl in El Salvador

In the country girls are usually seen as those who stay at home, clean the house and cook. When walking in the streets or even at school, the threat of being raped is omnipresent. Gang members see girls as sexual objects and nothing else. They can see a girl and choose them as their “wives”. If they girls leave they will kill their parents.

We receive no support to stay in school, even less to go to university. Even though we would do so, the threat of being abused in school is so high that it is a barrier in itself. In the last year, 30 school centres reported several cases of sexual abuse on girls and young women inside the school. In schools, malls and public spaces, girls go to the toilet in groups of three. One to use the toilet, two to look out for gang members who might rape or abuse us in the bathrooms. Bathrooms are dangerous for girls.

Gang violence isn’t the only violence faced by girls, but there is a strong culture of misogyny in the country. Women are not respected, not valued, and abused psychologically and physically. Last year 575 women were murdered, three women every other day, and just 11% of those cases ended-up in trial. For a girl, it is impossible to get justice over sexual abuse: The authorities just don’t even take the time to file a report or investigate those cases. It is expected that some authorities are also threatened and working with the gangs.

This leads all women to think less of themselves, so much that they often don’t even report those abuses. Girls feel like they don’t have a right to education because they have experienced this violence and must stay at home.

For all girls and women of El Salvador, we need to see a change.

Promoting human rights at all risks

I am determined to be part of the change. I provide workshops at a national and local levels, in schools and communities and talk about human rights, protection, gender and participation as citizens. When giving the workshops I like to focus on girls and young women because they face incredible risks every day, and aren’t supported sufficiently. I see them as “unpolished diamonds waiting to shine”. A friend of mine was depressed and lost hope after losing her parents. After joining our workshops, she now works with the local government to hold forums where women can express themselves freely.

Sometimes people in our communities feel they have no opportunity to change their future. Through the workshops, we show them how they can. I understand them because I felt the same way before I starting to participate in these same workshops provided by Plan International. Today I understand those are just mental barriers, and I’m proud to be able to share that with others.

However, we face some challenges in our work. All the territories where we work are controlled by gangs. I am always afraid when I have to walk in rural areas to go give a workshop. I am afraid to be attacked by someone, because the gangs have eyes everywhere on their territories and know whenever someone comes in or out. In schools is the same problem, there are always local observers, checking whether or not we say the wrong things including the numbers associated with different gangs. When giving the workshops, we literally risk our lives.

Of course there are ways to limit the risks and be safer. For example, I am always in touch with the programme unit of Plan International to make sure they know where I am and when. There are also more practical things like leaving at the correct time, and wearing the right kind of clothes that aren’t the colour associated with a gang. I usually prefer to wear Plan International clothes because everyone in the community knows and respect them.

Include youth in decision-making

I am really glad to be participating in the World Humanitarian Summit and have the opportunity to share the experiences of young people living in my country. I hope that the “Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action” will help us we can work with governments and other organisations to find solutions together.

We know that governments want to build a better future for us, young people, but their decisions affect us and must include us. We will be the bricklayers of that future, so today I want to call on world leader to listen to us and get us involved in their decisions. However, we must start by stopping the disintegration of families that promote the situation of violence.

I am just one single girl from El Salvador representing thousands, and I feel I have the responsibility to say on their behalf that we want to be free. Free to go to school and study, free to walk and play in the streets without fear. We want to be treated as human beings, to feel that we are important and valued, that we really have a future, most of all, we want to be the ones shaping that future.

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We are two 17-year-old students who thanks to Plan International and Save the Children had the opportunity to visit the Burundi Refugee camp in Nyarugusu during our Easter break. For three days we accompanied the Baba Watoto and Save the Children teams in some of their activities. Baba Watoto is a Tanzanian non-profit organisation sponsored by Save the Children and Plan International which support the refugee children through education and play activities, including Sports and Arts.

Although we could only go for three days, we hoped to still be able to get a little idea of what life in a camp is like, and start understanding what being a refugee really means. Three days doesn’t seem like much, but in such a short time we definitely experienced and learnt a lot. This piece will share with you a little bit of our experience with the refugees from Burundi we met in Nyarugusu and some of the highly committed Tanzanian people who help them.

Arriving in Nyarugusu, you would be forgiven for thinking that the camp is laid out along a main dirt road similar to many main dirt roads in Tanzania. Wide and surprisingly smooth, it’s built solidly, though the only vehicles you are likely to see are those of humanitarian organisations, as well as bicycles and the rarer motorbikes that steer well clear of the four-by-fours you’d be in. Along either side of the road, placed in loose grids between the sparse trees sit the rows of white (and not so white) tents, stamped with the omnipresent UNHCR logo.

From the safety of a cramped car seat, what you see of the camp doesn’t look as bad as you had imagined: yes, the tents look temporary but children are playing about as they are prone to do; adults walk and talk on the side of the road. Everyone you see is going somewhere. Every so often, you drive by a group of parked motorbikes or a table where a mechanic works on rusty bicycles. There are even hair salons, complete with signs in Kirundi and Kiswahili hanging on the blue tarpaulin walls. It seems ill-fitting to label these people as “refugees”. Aren’t refugees gaunt and quiet and traumatised? These people hold their heads high. Their hands engage in their conversations, and they walk with long, decisive strides.

Unfortunately, this first impression of the camp as a nearly adequate living space is a mirage. The observer will soon begin to notice other things that do not fit with the whitewashed image starting to build in their mind: the little boys and girls, barely toddlers, wearing only a ratty t-shirt or jumper; the lack of things to play with; the tents that start to sag as you get further into the camp. And then you step out of the car into this artificial world and you remember: these people have had to flee their lives. They have for the moment no future, no possible ambitions outside the limits of this camp. You remember the true tragedy of their situation. Living in these tents for a week or even a month wouldn’t be that hard. But living in these conditions knowing that this might well be your life from now on….? Still, children laugh and adults smile. When asked, the refugees told us how glad they are to be here. A mother who welcomed us under her tent said how she is now able to sleep without fear that her home might be attacked.

There is an irrational shame when you encounter people who have so little, and you are reminded of the immense privileges you have. Walking between the tents, we had a camera in our bag, which we were careful not to flaunt. However, I was mindlessly holding a plastic bottle of water in my hand. For me, this wasn’t a big deal, not something that I had to stay aware of. That is until a little boy wearing a muddy set of pyjamas came and begged for it. “Maji…” he said, the Swahili word for water. People have begged me for money before, and although it has never been an enjoyable experience, neither has it been a particularly distressing one. This was. Even though I knew that these people lacked water, I hadn’t put two and two together. What I considered a basic commodity was for this child a luxury in its cleanliness.

Water wasn’t the only basic thing that a lot of the children marvelled at. Our visit to a Child Friendly Space showed us how a simple notebook and a pen can create high excitement. But first what are these “Child Friendly Spaces”?

One of Baba Watoto’s activities which we found particularly interesting concern Child Friendly Spaces. Child Friendly Spaces are safe locations where children of all ages can go to play with other children and young animators. These spaces achieve a triple aim: 1) they give children a chance to play again through music, theatre and dance, and in doing so help them feel secure again after the trauma they may have endured, 2) they allow parents to complete activities which may take them away from their tent – e.g. registering, taking another child to the clinic, fetching food or water – all whilst knowing that their children are safe, and 3) they spread important information to children on issues like water sanitation, hygiene and children’s rights

Although Child Friendly Spaces are located all around the camp, for a large part of the children who live further away, walking to one is not always possible. To help more children be able to take advantage of the Child Friendly activities, Baba Watoto organizes Mobile Child Friendly Spaces We attended a morning session with one of these, way off the main road, which gave us a glimpse at how truly huge the camp is. Once we arrived at destination we all clambered out of the jam packed car and started to unroll large reed mats for the quickly gathering flock of children (and their curious parents) to sit on. The kids faced a dilemma: should they listen and participate in the group activity lead by an energetic man with a microphone? or should they join another gaggle of kids around an animator drawing a cartoon on water sanitation on a whiteboard?

Their indecisiveness only grew further when we -perhaps unadvisedly- took out two notebooks and pens from our backpacks and lent them to whoever was interested in drawing. The paper and pens drew a staggering amount of interest that would have made my Art teachers back at school green with envy. Helicopters, cars labelled “Save the Children”, houses adorned with Tanzanian and American flags, drawings of different people, all grew under the pen of these artists. The mass of people surrounding the books made it difficult to see the paper, let alone draw, but nevertheless, the notebook switched hands every few minutes, and previous drawings were evaluated by excited children and unconvincingly aloof adults.

 

On our last day, before leaving, we visited the tent of one of the mothers who had attended a Save the Children course on parenting. She gave us her two best chairs and refused to allow us to shift instead to her wooden bench. Sitting between old jerry cans, scratched cooking pots and low-hanging wire, she showed us a toy she had made for her youngest. A green soda bottle containing a small stone. A friend from Baba Watoto translated her explanation for us: “she says that this makes her child happier”.

It is difficult to reduce the camp and our short experience of it into a blog post. Nevertheless, this is what we have tried to do here, relying on a few anecdotes that surely have more importance to us than to the reader. This experience has altered something in us. Coming back to Dar es Salaam, we saw everything with fresh eyes, from a different viewpoint. Things have more value in our eyes now, from the water we drink, to the fans and AC that keep us cool in the heat. What remains now is to hold on to that feeling, to grasp it and remember it, even though it would be so easy to let go.

Thank you to the Baba Watoto team, for bringing us along on their Mobile CFS and helping us out at both the CFS’s and the TLS’s. Thanks also to Save the Children and Plan teams for organising this trip for us. Finally, thank you to the refugees that we met, for their warmth and the stories that they told us.

 

INTERVJU MED GEMTILLE

Gemtille er atten år gammel. Hun har bodd i Kiziba flyktningleir så lenge hun kan huske. En leir med kongolesiske flyktninger plassert høyt oppe i fjellene, langt unna annen sivilisasjon. Hun forteller om livet i leiren, både på godt og vondt. – Livet i leiren er ikke lett. Ofte er det som alt går på «repeat». Dagene føles veldig like, forteller hun.

Dagene til Gemtille består stort sett av å stå opp tidlig hver morgen for å gå på skolen. Der får hun vært litt sammen med vennene sine, men hun velger heller å vende fokuset mot studiene i skoletiden. Når skolen er ferdig drar hun hjem og begynner på husarbeidet. Rydde, vaske, passe småsøsken og lage mat. Noen dager i uka må hun ta turen ut av leiren for å finne ved. Da går hun langt og bærer tungt. Ofte er hun ikke hjemme før sent på kvelden. – Når jeg skal utenfor leiren for å finne ved føler jeg meg ofte veldig utrygg. Det blir mørkt før vi kommer tilbake, derfor prøver jeg alltid finne noen å gå sammen med, forteller Gemtille. Slik er stort sett dagene hennes. Selv om det kan virke meningsløst til tider, føler hun at skolen hjelper henne langt på vei. – Jeg liker å gå på skolen. Der føler jeg at lærerne tar oss på alvor og virkelig ønsker at vi skal lære noe. Kvaliteten på undervisningen er også veldig bra, selv om vi mangler en del utstyr som bøker, skrivebøker og kart.

Det er ikke bare på skolen at ting mangler. I leiren generelt er det flere ting som ikke er på plass, noe som gjør hverdagen svært utfordrende for ungdommen. I en periode var det nesten umulig å få tak i sanitetsprodukter for jenter. Gemtille selv gikk i tre måneder uten tilgang til slike produkter, noe som gikk ut over hverdagen hennes. – Jeg unngikk å dra på skolen i de aktuelle ukene. Det var rett og slett umulig. Mensen er et stort problem for jenter i leiren, meddeler hun. Hverdagen hennes preges ofte av at behovene hennes ikke blir møtt slik de burde. Hun forteller om jevnaldrende jenter som må gå så langt som å prostituere seg for å få tak i ting som mangler i leiren. – Det er vondt å se de jentene på skolen, jeg skulle virkelig ønske forholdene ikke var slik.

Gemtille har et stort engasjement for unge i leiren. Med både skole og husarbeid er det ikke mye tid til fritid, men om hun skulle finne et ledig øyeblikk bruker hun det på å delta i de organiserte ungdomsaktivitetene leiren tilbyr. Tidligere spilte hun basket på et lag med både gutter og jenter, men for kort tid siden brakk hun armen på banen. Etter dette har hun tatt det litt rolig, og holder seg nå til en klubb hvor hun lærer tradisjonell dans. – Jeg elsker å danse, så jeg trives veldig godt i denne klubben. Ikke bare fordi vi lærer dans, men fordi det er en fin sosial aktivitet også, smiler hun. Igjen må hun meddele at det også til aktivitetene mangler en del utstyr. De mangler ordentlige sko, spilleskjorter og baller. –Det er veldig dumt, for det begrenser hvor mange som får benytte seg av aktivitetene.

Det Gemtille liker best med aktivitetene er at de i tillegg til å være både morsomme og sosiale, er det også der ungdom få være med på å utgjøre en forskjell i leiren. Gjennom de forskjellige klubbene lærer ungdommer om rettighetene sine. –I danseklubben lærer vi om seksuelt- og kjønnsbasert vold. Vi lærer hvordan vi skal unngå overgrep og beskytte oss selv. Vi lærer også hvordan vi skal håndtere en situasjon hvor andre har blitt utsatt for overgrep. Klubben hjelper oss til å stå opp for oss selv, og å bygge opp selvtillit.

-Min drøm er å hjelpe ungdommer i leiren. Jeg vil fungere som en mentor for andre, en man kan komme til om man trenger hjelp eller har problemer. Ingen skal falle utenfor på min vakt, sier hun og ler.

INTERVJU MED FENN

Da jeg og Jenny var i Rwanda fikk vi muligheten til å intervjue arbeidere og unge i flyktningleirene. Her er et intervju med Fenn, Child Protection Officer.

-Det er når barna er alene, uten andre rundt seg, at de er triste. Det er da de tenker over de vanskelige tingene, forteller Fenn. Han jobber i Kiziba flyktningleir. En leir som huser omtrent 17 000 mennesker på flukt, for det meste Kongolesere. Fenn jobber med barns beskyttelse i leiren. Hans hovedområde er rundt «Child Friendly Spaces» – barnevennlige områder. Dette er områder laget til for bare barn, hvor de kan være med på arrangerte aktiviteter og leke fritt.

-Child Friendly Spaces er områder med trygge rammer for barna. Vi prøver å møte barnas behov så langt det er mulig ved å gi dem en mer rutinert hverdag gjennom organiserte aktiviteter og leker, meddeler Fenn. Han mener at Child Friendly Spaces er et veldig vellykket prosjekt. Mange av barna har ulike talenter som kommer fram gjennom de forskjellige aktivitetene. Han forteller som en liten jente som elsket spillet «Memory». Gjennom spillingen viste det seg at hun hadde en unik evne til å huske ting. Den gode hukommelsen fikk hun stor nytte av i de senere år da hun begynte på skolen. Nå gjør hun det kjempebra, noe han mener skyldes stimuleringen hun fikk.  – Child Friendly Spaces og våre aktiviteter hjelper barna fra første øyeblikk. Ungene får stimulert kreativiteten sin og vist sitt potensiale gjennom tegning, dansing og sport.

For barn hjemme i Norge er lek en selvfølge, men slik er det ikke i leiren. De fleste barna får ikke leke så mye i hjemmet sitt. Ofte må de være stille og får ikke være ute sammen med de andre på egenhånd. Det er da tankene begynner å spinne og vonde minner kommer frem, mener Fenn. – Barn har rett til å leke. Dessverre mister de denne retten når de er alene hele tiden, påpeker han. – Det er bra for ungene å komme i kontakt med andre barn. Av hverandre lærer de grunnleggende ting som å samarbeide, kommunisere og å dele.

Det å dele er noe barna virkelig får jobbet med. Når man skuer ut over leiren er det barn så langt øye kan se. I campen finnes det én Child Friendly Space som er fast, og tre mobile som flyttes rundt over hele leiren. De bærbare, såkalte «tool kits» er ganske enkelt en stor eske med spill og leker i. –De er for mange, og vi er for få. Våre ressurser og kapasitet rekker bare over et begrenset antall barn. Det sier seg selv at med bare en liten Child Friendly Space og tre lekekasser strekker vi ikke til. Jeg syntes det er fryktelig vondt, og det tærer mye på samvittigheten min. Jeg vet at blant alle de sårbare sjelene i leiren er det mange som kunne trengt den hjelpen vi tilbyr. Mange som kunne trengt den psykiske støtten og byggesteinene til en stødig selvtillit, forteller Fenn. Han ser rundt seg og trekker pusten dypt før han fortsetter. – Mitt største ønske nå er at vi skal klare å nå ut til enda flere barn. Alle skal få benytte seg av tilbudet. For vi tilbyr ikke bare lek og spill, vi tilbyr en tryggere og meningsfull barndom.

Intervju fra Rwanda: Emmanuel (15)

– Skolen er i dårlig stand, forteller 15 år gamle Emmanuel. Han er en av ungdommene vi møter i Kiziba, en flyktningleir på grensa til Den Demokratiske Republikken Kongo. – Det er jord på bakken og vi mangler materiale vi trenger i timene. Kvaliteten på undervisningen er allikevel høy. Han mener at de ulike områdene som er satt opp for å holde barn og unge i aktivitet, som child friendly spaces og idrettsbaner, hjelper. – Når barna leker trives de godt og de er avslappede. Da tenker de ikke på det som er trist.

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– Vi får ikke nok av det vi trenger. Det er vanskelig å få tak i ting, og om vi spør om noe tar det veldig lang tid før vi får det, sier han. Emmanuel liker selv å spille volleyball, men i campen, som rommer rundt 20 000 flyktninger, er det bare én volleyballbane, og én volleyball. – Vi er mange ungdommer, og mange vil være med å spille når vi først får tak i en ball. Noen ganger er det de eldre ungdommene som spiller, og da får ikke de yngre være med selv om de kanskje er lyst, forteller Emmanuel. – Noen ganger former folk grupper og stenger ut eller erter andre. Det er vondt.

Selv drømmer Emmanuel om å ta utdannelse å bli lege, men enda virker drømmen langt unna. – Jeg står opp om morgenen, og så går jeg på skolen. Når jeg kommer hjem fra skolen hjelper jeg foreldrene mine, sier han. – Dette er ikke et lykkelig liv.

Francine(21) driver egen frisørsalong

I 2011 gikk pengene som norske elever jobbet  inn under Operasjon Dagsverk til  et Plan-prosjekt i Rwanda. Prosjektet skulle gi flere ungdommer mulighet til å fullføre videregående utdanning av god kvalitet og til å organisere seg, uttrykke seg og lære om sine rettigheter. Pengene gikk blant annet til å  bygge to videregående skoler, gi  stipender til 200 jenter, videreutdanning av lærerer, å starte opp elevråd på en rekke skoler og fange opp jenter som var på vei til å droppe ut av skolen.

Nå går Plans rolle i prosjektet mot slutten, og myndighetene har tatt over driften av skolene. I dag var vi så heldige å få møte noen av elevene som har dratt nytte av prosjektet.

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Francine er 21 år og kommer fra Bugesera-området. Hun var en av de heldige jentene som fikk stipend til yrkesutdanning gjennom OD-prosjektet. Francine valgte frisørutdanning  og har nå startet sin egen salong, som Dina fikk prøve i dag.

– Jeg visste at familien min ikke kunne forsørge meg og betale for utdanningen min, forteller Francine da vi møter henne. – Jeg startet salongen for å kunne hjelpe familien min med penger, i tillegg til å forsørge meg selv.

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– Jeg har alltid hatt lyst til å starte opp noe selv. Det er vanskelig for familien min å støtte meg økonomisk, forteller hun. Stipendet gjorde det mulig for henne å  ta fagutdanning og starte opp salongen.

Francine var en av de heldige som ble plukket ut  Så tok hun et ettårig kurs som frisør før hun var lærling i 3 måneder. – Jeg liker å jobbe som frisør, sier Francine. – I salongen klipper vi både menn og damer. Jeg har ansatt en gutt som jobber her og klipper menn.

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Nå er det rundt et år siden Francine åpnet salongen, og businessen går godt. – Til vanlig har jeg rundt 20 kunder i uken, forteller hun. I dag var det Dina som fikk være Francines kunde, og fikk en hårklipp.

I tillegg til å møte Francine snakket vi med  tre andre jenter som hadde fått stipend og nettopp fullført videregående utdanning. Alle var nå i full gang med å søke jobb. Det er godt å se at Plans arbeid gjør en forskjell og  bidrar til at ungdom får et utgangspunkt de kan bygge videre på.

«We want to thank Norway, ODW and Plan for the scholarship and the help they have given us.»

– Faith, 19 år, mottaker av stipend fra OD-prosjektet så hun fikk fullføre videregående skole.