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Stories from the Nakivale Refugee Settlement: The Wenzetu Group

By Mandy Burrows, Senior Programme Manager

In March 2020 I had the opportunity to visit Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda for some participatory video fieldwork with Insight share (an expert in using media tools to give people a voice in participating with community projects). This put refugees behind the camera to film stories as told by refugees themselves. In total, eight groups were filmed over a four-day period – each group providing powerful insights into life in Nakivale.

One of the groups which participated was the Wenzetu Group. This is a group or parents (predominantly mothers) of children with disabilities. They have come together to act as a savings group, to provide support to each other and to establish a form of schooling to meet the needs of the children. This provides much-needed respite for the parents, many of whom are single parents, bringing up their children alone.

Depending on the severity of the disability, some of the children cannot be left alone which prevents the parents from building up their livelihoods or finding employment. One father had built a wooden seat on his bicycle so that he was able to take his son everywhere with him.

The school setting enables the children to come together and learn in a caring environment and allows the parents to focus on generating an income and to receive financial literacy training.

The video below looks at how the group was set up and the support it brings, especially in regards to providing a safe education space for the children. Although the challenges raised in the video, such as the children and their families facing stigma and abuse because of the disabilities, cannot be addressed directly by our project, the focus on financial inclusion can help support their aim of working their way out of poverty.

Since filming, COVID-19 has affected the lives of the group, just as it has for everyone around the world.  The Wenzetu Group reported that there has been a slowdown in business activities and some group members have had to close their businesses. They also reported a shortage of food due to a reduction in food supplies. A final challenge was that restrictions in movement around the settlement affected access to healthcare, which exacerbates problems for children with chronic health issues.

Our RISE (Refugees: Innovation, Self-reliance & Empowerment) project cannot address all of the challenges the group faces but working towards financial inclusion will help the group build their resilience. The group has come together to support each other and the aim is that the project can support the group with financial access so that this can continue.  They are keen to make their own way without relying on handouts.

If you would like to find out more about the other groups invovled in this project and to see their stories – visit our youtube channel.    And to donate and help more groups like Wenzetu please donate here.

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