In ODWEP, Women’s Empowerment is central to all the work we do.
As young African women and men of the twenty-first century, we know from the experience of our lives that the subservient status of women in Bantu culture is a barrier to the social development of our Central and East African communities. This is true even during peacetime, but in these recent decades when many of our countries have been at war, the situation for women has become far worse. When men go to battle, women left alone with their children are vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence, and this is true whether they stay at home or attempt the risky journey to safety.
Women arrive at Kakuma Refugee Camp with expectations that the camp will be a haven of peace and hope – but the reality can be as bad as where they came from, with men demanding sex as payment for goods or services for the women and their children. Many women become infected with HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
For women who are at Kakuma with their husbands, the poor conditions in the camp and the culture of violence and war from which they have come contribute to high rates of domestic violence. In the few high schools we have at Kakuma, girls are only 13% of the students.
In all of our programs, from Vocational Training to Health to Alternatives to Violence, our aim is that sixty percent of the participants are women. We are trying to educate both women and men that with this harsh life, men and women need to come together, as decision-makers and as trained workers. We are trying to fight the attitude that men and boys are more worthy and valuable than women and girls and that violence against women is acceptable. We aim to create an inclusive community in which all are involved and participate, from the family to the community level.
This web page is still in development. We plan to add here the voices of some of our ODWEP team members, speaking personally about Women’s Empowerment.
We are currently seeking grant funding for a series of Women’s Empowerment workshops at Kakuma. Grounded in the extensive work we have already done, these workshops would involve large groups of women from all sectors in the camp, training to become ambassadors of Women’s Empowerment.