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    IRIN: For victims of the Ituri conflict’s sexual violence, aid is scarce

    Posted
    3/20/18

    IRIN quoted Delphine Pinault, CARE Uganda’s country director, in a story about the lack of aid for sexual violence victims and refugees fleeing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Uganda, where millions are fleeing, CARE is providing counseling and group activities to survivors of gender-based violence. “Despite the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence, at the community level, stigma surrounding being a survivor still persists, including being ridiculed, rejected and isolated as a result of the shame,” she said. Read the story here.  

    Over the past year there has been nearly a million refugees from South Sudan flowing into northern Uganda. The South Sudanese are being driven from their homes by violence and driven into hunger. Credit: Peter Caton/CARE

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    This 42 page document covers the Forest Resources Sector Transparency (FOREST) Programme, a partnership between a wide range of stakeholders. CARE Denmark with financial support from DANIDA worked with CARE International in Uganda in partnership with Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Anti- Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU), Rwenzori Anti-Corruption Coalition (RAC), Mid-West Anti-Corruption Coalition (MIRAC), Joint Effort to Save the Environment (JESE), PANOS Eastern Africa and Water and Environment Journalists Network (WEMNET).

    Country: 
    Published Date: 
    Thursday, April 19, 2018

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    A young mother starts over in Uganda

    Posted
    4/26/18

    The fish market-turned-landing site at Sebagoro on Uganda’s Lake Albert is no longer full of thousands of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, no longer a makeshift settlement where women build up temporary tents out of the traditional kitenge fabric to protect themselves from the sun. A few people rest in the shade or stand with the few belongings they managed to bring; others are lined up awaiting medical attention, the calm atmosphere a stark difference from what I saw just a few weeks ago on my first visit. The horrifying water and sanitation conditions — where you could once see feces floating in the same water women were washing their clothes and children filling up bottles of water — are no longer blatantly obvious.  

    I visited Sebagoro for the first time in early February during the height of the refugee influx across Lake Albert. At that time several thousands of refugees were arriving weekly, and boats were arriving almost every hour. I spoke with many refugees who told me the horrors they faced not only on the other side of the lake but also what they endured in transit: boats capsizing or children falling overboard and drowning due to overcrowding and rough waters. Although the influx has slowed — about 30 people arrived the day of my most recent visit — the stories remain eerily similar. The conflict doesn’t look as if it will end anytime soon and the hope for peace in DRC is wavering. 

    One of the refugee women I spoke to this visit was Gloria*. She is 18 years old and fled from her village in Ituri province along with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. In DRC she was a small-scale farmer and her husband a fisherman and avid footballer who played for their village team and competed in inter-village matches. She told me her story while sitting in front of a boat similar to the one she arrived in, one she says was very crowded with people and their belongings, and costs 20,000 Ugandan shillings per person for the journey.  

    She says that the conflict hadn’t reached her village yet but was nearing every day – with a nearby village falling victim to the inter-ethnic violence that is spreading across the Ituri Province. She looks down at the ground and says that there have been a lot of mass killings, with perpetrators using machetes to cut people to pieces, houses being burned to the ground, and the stealing of livestock and land. She and her husband made the difficult decision to leave before their village was destroyed, leaving most of their belongings behind. When I asked her if she plans on ever going back she looked past me and said, “DRC will never have peace – if there’s no war today, there’s war tomorrow.” An echo of what I have heard from the countless Congolese refugees.  

    Although the hope for peace in DRC is small, the hope for peace is what has kept the will to rebuild a new life alive. Gloria says she’s heard that in Uganda’s Kyangwali Refugee Settlement she will get the opportunity to restart her life in peace where there are services available to support her like CARE’s Women and Girls Center, a safe space where women can access health services, including support for survivors of gender-based violence, among other things. But most importantly all she really wants now is peace. 

    *Name has been changed 

    By
    Ruwani Dharmakirthi

    Gloria* is 18 years old and fled from her village in Ituri province in the DRC along with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. They now live in Uganda’s Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. *Name changed. Photo credit: Thomas Markert/CARE

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    Funding Gaps Threaten Critical Aid for Refugees in Uganda, Says CARE and 25 Other Ngos

    Posted
    6/28/18

    June 28, 2018 -- Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa, and is among the top refugee-hosting countries globally. Every day, more people, mostly women and children, continue to arrive in search of safety. The Government of Uganda has shown tremendous generosity in opening its borders to so many vulnerable refugees and granting them access to land and services, freedom of movement and the right to work.

    However, the international community has not stepped up to share this responsibility, despite commitments made in the 2016 New York Declaration and the subsequent Global Compact for Refugees. Halfway through the year, Uganda’s 2018 Integrated Refugee Response Plan (RRP) is only 6% funded and faces a critical shortfall. Where funding has been made available, it is largely short-term, covering 3-6 months and unsuitable for the chronic long-term needs of vulnerable refugees.

    Our organizations, working to support Uganda’s comprehensive response, see the impact of this funding gap every day. The ongoing influx means services are seriously overstretched. Many refugees have no access to vital primary health care, and health centers are short of beds, medicine and staff. Access to water in some areas is just 60% of the recommended minimum standards, meaning refugees are going without adequate sanitation and safe water. Some refugees have to sleep overnight at tap stands in order to get water. This is putting lives at risk, as evidenced by the recent cholera outbreak in southwest Uganda which killed at least 49 people. After great effort, the outbreak has only recently been brought under control, but could flare up again at any moment.

    Having to walk several kilometers to access services means women and children are exposed to numerous risks. There are widespread reports of sexual violence against young children and women in and around settlements, yet the availability and quality of services are inadequate, which is also leading to under-reporting by survivors. For example, in Kyangwali settlement, just 1% of SGBV survivors receive health services. In addition, thousands of unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and without increased investment in protection services, their vulnerability will only increase. Many new arrivals show signs of severe psychological distress and trauma after their experiences, yet mental health and psychosocial support services are scarce.

    Some 59% of refugee children in Uganda – around 300,000 children – are not receiving an education. Dozens of school structures that were constructed as temporary learning spaces are now on the verge of collapse, and there are no funds for repairs. Newly built learning centers for new arrivals remain closed as there are no funds to open them. Meanwhile many teachers’ salaries will soon run out, before the most critical time of the school year when exams must be sat. Girls are dropping out of school or failing to enroll, and as a result some are reverting to transactional sex or are married off early, and often forcefully, by their caregivers to make ends meet.

    Some settlements, such as Kyaka II and Kyangwali, have doubled in size in recent months and the land and natural resources available for new refugees are rapidly shrinking, increasing the risk of inter-personal conflict within the settlements. In order to host new arrivals, existing refugees are being required to give away land they have depended on for cultivation, but have not been provided with alternatives to compensate them for the loss of food or income. Greater investment in diverse, dignified and durable livelihood options is needed if new refugees are to become self-reliant.

    Given these huge needs and within a context of an already severely underfunded refugee response, we are extremely concerned by the allegations of fraud and corruption and fully support the donor community’s demands for greater accountability. In response to these allegations, in February UNCHR with the Government of Uganda launched the largest biometric refugee verification exercise worldwide. The exercise is now well underway, alongside implementation of other concrete steps, such as independent monitoring and improved reporting and referral systems, to ensure more transparent management of funds and aid in kind.

    While verification goes on, it is clear the needs remain enormous and urgent. Refugees and their host communities cannot wait for assistance any longer. We urge the donor community to not only continue but urgently step up its contribution to the refugee response, to reflect the level of need.

    We are extremely concerned that the funding gap is not only preventing effective service delivery and leading to a deterioration in welfare of existing refugees, but is also leaving Uganda seriously under-prepared for a major new refugee influx. More than 110,000 new refugees have already arrived in Uganda this year, at an average rate of 767 people every day. The lack of funding and short-term nature of available funds mean the humanitarian community was unable to prepare effectively for this influx. Another quarter of a million people are expected by the end of the year, but any further escalation of violence or deterioration in food security in South Sudan or DRC could send this number spiraling. This time, donors must invest to ensure Uganda is better prepared to manage this ever-increasing number of refugees.

    NGOs are already contributing significant financial and human resources, but we can only contribute so much. We urge donors to ensure that – while progress on the Joint Accountability Framework is monitored – the Refugee Response Plan is funded to reflect the scale of need, and that, in the light and spirit of the CRRF, longer-term multi-year predictable funding is provided.

    Signed by 26 international organizations:
    Action Against Hunger
    CARE
    CESVI
    Catholic Relief Services
    DCA
    Danish Refugee Council
    Finn Church Aid
    Finnish Refugee Council
    Humanity & Inclusion Cooperation
    IJM
    International Rescue Committee
    IRRI 
    The Johanniter International Assistance
    The Lutheran World Federation
    Mercy Corps
    Medical Teams International
    Norwegian Refugee Council
    Oxfam
    Plan International
    Save the Children
    War Child Holland
    Welt Hunger Hilfe
    World Vision
    ZOA

     

    About CARE
    Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. That’s why women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education and health, create economic opportunity, respond to emergencies and confront hunger. Last year CARE worked in 93 countries and reached more than 63 million people around the world. Learn more at care.org.

    Media Contact
    Brian Feagans, bfeagans@care.org; 404-979-9453

    A young girl returns to her temporary family shelter after eating lunch at the transit center in the Imvepi refugee settlement in northwestern Uganda. International development organizations, including CARE, fear funding gaps will threaten aid for refugees like her. (Edward Echwalu/CARE)

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    D. R. Congo: One of the World’s Forgotten Humanitarian Crises in Urgent Need of International Attention

    Posted
    8/7/18

    A surge in violent conflict and inter-communal tensions has forced more than 781,000 Congolese, many of them women and children, to flee their homes since 2017. The situation continues to deteriorate dramatically as escalating violence, particularly in the country’s eastern region, is causing an exodus in neighboring countries. “Unfortunately, the situation is worsening day by day and the Congolese refugees are now among the ten largest refugee populations of the world. D.R Congo and the affected neighboring countries need international assistance more than ever before. The current response is severely overstretched and underfunded”, says Delphine Pinault, CARE’s country director in Uganda. “We urgently need funding to continue supporting the Congolese refugees as another spike in influx is expected in the end of 2018.”

    Uganda is now hosting the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as of July 18, 2018 the number is 288,766 in total. Women and children make up to 82 percent of the population. Lack of food is severe and there is an urgent need to protect women and children from gender-based violence incidents.


    “People who arrive report severe incidents of sexual abuse and violence,” says Pinault. The lack of safe spaces and shelter, especially for women and children who are already traumatized, needs to be prioritized.”

    The situation is also very critical in Zambia, now hosting more than 42,000 Congolese refugees. New arrivals there are putting additional pressure on the local population who is suffering from an already dire economic situation. Some families have to walk long distances to fetch water and to collect donated food. 

    In May 2018, UNHCR has updated the response plan for the DRC Regional Response Strategy for 2018 and revised the expected number of new refugees in Uganda to 150,000 up to 300,000 as contingency. Despite the difficulties and the unprecedented number of refugees in Uganda and Zambia, the two countries keep their doors open, but the situation is deteriorating for everyone. The risk of more Congolese fleeing their country remains high, with a disastrous impact on the precarious humanitarian situation in both the DRC and neighboring countries.

    CARE has been working in DRC since 1994, initially responding to a refugee crisis following the Rwandan genocide. Currently our teams in Uganda and Zambia, prioritizing the most vulnerable, are providing assistance through distribution of hygiene items, such as pads and underwear to women. In addition, aiming to protect sexual violence survivors, CARE is creating safe spaces for women, pregnant women and children; and is offering psychological support and counseling on sexual and reproductive health, basic sanitation and hygiene. So far we have reached more than 14,000 people. Our teams in Uganda and Zambia will continue to monitor the situation closely and assess the needs of those affected and especially of women and girls, as conditions are expected to deteriorate further in the coming weeks. In Zambia we are also leading the shelter and infrastructure group, having built 2,700 shelters, and are building a refugee reception center, a distribution center, and a center for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

     

    About CARE:

    Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. That’s why women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve education and health, create economic opportunity, respond to emergencies and confront hunger. Last year CARE worked in 93 countries and reached more than 63 million people around the world. Learn more at care.org.

     

    Media contact:

    Mahmoud Shabeeb, mshabeeb@care.org, +962-79-146-39-03, Skype: mahmoud.shabeeb_1 (based in Amman, Jordan)

    Nicole Harris, nharris@care.org, 404-735-0871

    Lisy (26) fled her home in DRC with her two daughters, Rose (6) and Kelly (3), to Uganda, and are struggling to meet their basic needs. Despite the difficulties and the unprecedented number of refugees in Uganda and Zambia, the two countries keep their doors open, but the situation is deteriorating for everyone. Photo: Thomas Markert/CARE

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    The refugee fighting sexual violence

    Posted
    8/29/18

    Earlier this year, tens of thousands of Congolese risked their lives to flee their conflict-ridden country and seek refuge in Uganda. Pema* is one of them. At the time, fighting was raging in Ituri, her home province, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  

    “Our village was attacked during the night. After they raped me, rebels stole our herd, and kidnapped my husband and my eldest child. I haven’t from them since. I think about my son all the time. I miss him so much,” she says. 

    After experiencing rape, displacement and violence, she’s now trying to rebuild her life together with her 10 children in Uganda’s Kyangwali refugee settlement. Eager to help people with similar trauma, she became a volunteer with CARE. She educates women and girls about sexual and gender-based violence and early marriage, of which she is a survivor.  

    “I can help them because I experienced it myself. I don’t want it to happen to others.”  

    Pema became pregnant from rape at 14. Due to family pressure, she was forced to get married to her rapist and, in the years that followed, was forcibly impregnated with 10 more children. Because of her young age, her pregnancies led to life-threatening complications. 

    “During my last pregnancy, I almost died,” she says. “After I gave birth to my twins, I remained unconscious for two days. Doctors told me that I would not survive any following pregnancies and, thankfully, convinced my husband to sign the papers for my sterilization.” 

    Today, Pema meets with women and girls in the camp to inform them about their rights and existing solutions in case of rape and assault. She’s among 40 other volunteers that play a crucial in identifying sexual and gender-based violence in their communities.  

    “What I’m doing with CARE is very important for me,” Pema says. “I’m very happy to do it, because nobody should suffer like I did. I hope I can contribute to making a difference.” 

     

    Pema was raped and married by age 14. She’s working to keep the same thing from happening to other women and girls. Photo credit: Camille Nozieres/CARE

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    A new mother looks for hope in an uncertain future

    Posted
    8/29/18

    Mafi* holds her newborn daughter as she puts her hand gently on her little tummy. Shortly before fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo, four armed men raped Mafi and she became pregnant. On a hot and humid afternoon two days after giving birth, Mafi recounts her horrific story in front of the small tent of plastic sheeting that she now calls home in Uganda’s Kyangwali refugee settlement. Mafi is one of over 288,000 Congolese who has fled DRC to seek refuge in Uganda

    They followed me into the forest. I went to get fire wood when the four armed men suddenly attacked me. I screamed at the top of my lungs for help, but no one heard me, no one came. They pushed me to the ground and I immediately knew what their intention was. “Kill me,” I shouted to them, because I would have rather died than being raped by them. They did not listen to me. They took their turns, one after the other, until I fell unconscious from the pain.  

    I woke up in the hospital. The nurse told me that villagers found me in the woods, my body covered in blood, and brought me to the main street. Luckily, a police car drove by that moment and brought me to the hospital. The doctors were very nice and kept me there for a few weeks to recover. During the first few days, one of them told me that I was pregnant. My heart skipped a beat and I felt panic rush through my whole body. I remembered how I had lost three of my own children due to sickness, unable to provide for them. I knew I had to keep the baby.  

    I felt like I was only person in the world who had nobody. Armed men had killed my family members and burned our house when I was 5 years old. The pastor’s wife in our village took me in and raised me. I got married when I was 15 years old and decided to leave them, not wanting to be a burden anymore. But then rebels also killed my husband and after losing my children I found myself alone once again.  

    I had to run. As soon as I was released from the hospital, I realized that I had to flee in order to save my life and that of my unborn child. In my village, I saw how many families walked towards Lake Albert and I decided to join them. I only took the radio along with me from home because I knew I would need it to pay for the boat ride. It took me almost two weeks to get to Uganda. At one of the roadblocks, I met a former friend of my husband. He gave me some water and a little bit of money to survive the journey. About three months ago, I made it to Uganda. 

    I was helpless. Having left everything behind, I did not know how to raise my baby without any income and limited amount of assistance. But then I met Esther. She works with CARE and is an angel to me. She asked me questions, listened to my story and gave me hope again. She even took me to the hospital during my pregnancy and brought clothes for my baby after I gave birth to her. I never thought anyone could be so nice to me. There is no way for me to show her my appreciation. But I named my baby after her. Her name is Esther.  

    My child is innocent. She is not responsible for the sins of her father. My biggest wish is to be able to provide for her. Although life is better here in Uganda, I still do not know what the future will hold for us. But now, at least I have faith.  

    *Name has been changed 

     

    “My child is innocent. She is not responsible for the sins of her father,” says Mafi of her new baby Esther. Photo credit: Jennifer Bose/CARE

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    The Brutal Reality of Sexual Violence Survivors in Refugee Settlements in Uganda

    Posted
    10/9/18

    Jane* fled South Sudan for Uganda with her three sisters last year. Armed forces threatened her family and Jane’s parents sent their children away knowing their lives were in danger. It took them five days to reach Uganda’s Imvepi refugee settlement. A few days later, Jane, 17, found out her parents had been killed.

    “I miss my parents but I’m glad we left the people with the guns behind,” she says. 

    At Imvepi, however, she still is not safe. Her family was connected to government forces in South Sudan, which poses a threat to her and her sisters’ lives. Shortly after their arrival at Imvepi, Jane and her sisters were attacked in the middle of the night in the refugee settlement by a group of about 15 men.

    “They shouted that they wanted to kill us and that this would be the last time for us to see the light,” Jane says. “And then they touched us… .”

    It was the third time they’d been attacked since arriving. They received little empathy when they told others in the camp about the incident. 

    “They told us we should have just let them kill us,” she says.

    South Sudan declared independence in 2011. Seven years later, the country is ravaged by fighting, severe hunger, mass displacement, and accusations of war crimes by government and opposition forces. Nearly 4 million people have been forced to flee because of the conflict.

    Imvepi currently hosts more than 100,000 refugees, almost three times the number of locals in the area. Of the 1.3 million refugees in Uganda, over 1 million are South Sudanese and over 85 percent are women and children in real danger of sexual and physical violence, with many reporting incidents of violence on their brutal journey.

    Upon arrival in the refugee settlements in Uganda, underage children are immediately located and matched with a foster family within two to three days. But many of them decide to leave and fall back under the risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Too often they end up trading sex for money – earning as little as 2,000 Ugandan Shillings (1 USD) per exchange. CARE holds awareness-raising sessions on sexual and reproductive health with unaccompanied minors to highlight the risks and prevent threats of sexual violence.

    “We cannot provide survivors of sexual and gender-based violence with support to heal from their trauma, but at the same time be unable to meet their basic needs, forcing them into selling their bodies for survival,” says Delphine Pinault, CARE Uganda’s Country Director.

    Jane’s life has changed dramatically since leaving home. As the eldest, she has to take care of her younger sisters. Food usually runs out before they receive their next ration. Every day, she wakes up to pray, prepares breakfast for her sisters and goes to Imvepi’s reception center to help out other refugees fleeing South Sudan. She has not gone back to school. Her trauma and fear of being attacked on the way to school is too great. Eventually, she wants to become an accountant or teacher and move closer to a city to feel safer.

    CARE has built a shelter for Jane and her sisters close to the settlement’s police station to help protect her from further attacks. The shelter and the girls’ caretaker, Albert, help Jane and her sisters feel safer. It gives her hope for a better life.

    “Only if peace in South Sudan lasts for more than 10 years, I would trust my country to be safe enough to move back,” Jane says. 
    *name has been changed 


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    Far From Home: The 13 Worst Refugee Crises for Girls

    South Sudan declared independence in 2011. Seven years later, the country is ravaged by fighting, severe hunger, mass displacement, and accusations of war crimes by government and opposition forces. Nearly 4 million people have been forced to flee because of the conflict. Photo credit: Jennifer Bose/CARE

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    South Sudan to Uganda: Three girls in search of survival and school

    Posted
    10/9/18

    In the heat of the day, Lillian, Scobia and Viola help each other carry large, heavy pieces of wood from a collection point to the temporary shelter they are trying to make into a home at Imvepi refugee settlement in Uganda. They’ve been sharing a latrine with neighbors with no place to shower, so today, they are building their own bathroom on their land. The girls, now 17 years old, are from the same village in South Sudan. Most of the fledgling nation is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis fueled by years of chronic underdevelopment, conflict and natural disasters. The three girls fled to Uganda last year with Viola’s eight-year-old brother, but no adult guardian. 

    Viola and her brother were raised by their uncle until he was killed by soldiers on his way home one day. They survived for a few months off of the vegetables in their garden. When they ran out of food, they moved in with Scobia and her grandmother, who were neighbors. Lillian was living with her older sister, after their parents had died. But when her sister got married, she left with her husband, leaving Lillian alone. She also moved in with Scobia.

    As the violence in South Sudan worsened, their school stopped operating and the girls became increasingly worried about their safety. 

    “I was afraid that if I stayed in South Sudan, we would get killed just like my uncle,” Viola says. “I wanted to come to Uganda to be safe and get an education, so I can one day get a job and continue taking care of my brother.”

    Scobia’s grandmother helped the girls pack food and their belongings, and they set off for Uganda on foot. During the journey, they rationed their supplies, not knowing how long they’d need the food to last. They arrived in Uganda after walking for seven days.

    “Young girls like these arriving in Uganda alone and fending for themselves are at major risk of violent attacks. They often times arrive already traumatized from violent events that may have occurred on their journey,” says Delphine Pinault, Country Director for CARE Uganda. “With most of the refugees coming from a culture of violence and conflict, it is critical that we work with the entire community, including men and boys, on adopting more caring and supportive behaviors and on resolving conflicts and differences through dialogue rather than the fist.”

    Out of the 1.35 million refugees in Uganda, over 700,000 are children under 18, according to UNHCR. Many of those children arrive in Uganda without a parent or guardian. Sometimes a child finds a guardian on the journey to Uganda, or once they arrive in Uganda. Other times a child finds a group of other children and they become each other’s guardians. This is the case with Lillian, Scobia and Viola. These girls have become each other’s family.

    “We do everything together. We collect firewood, fetch water and cook together. We also comfort each other when we are sad or remembering what we have lost in South Sudan. We are sisters,” Viola says. 

    They need clothes, and more food, and are aware of how important their education is to a positive future. 

    "I have to take care of my eight-year-old brother. I want a good education so I can provide for him. One day I hope to become a nurse so I can help my community," Viola says.

    “School will help me overcome the challenges I am facing,” Lillian says. “If I have an education, I can get a good job and those challenges will disappear.”

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    Far From Home: The 13 Worst Refugee Crises for Girls
     

    Lilian, Viola and Scobia’s shared struggle has led to a genuine sisterhood.   CARE/Peter Caton

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    How menstrual cups are helping build confidence among refugee girls in Uganda

    Posted
    10/9/18

    Two bedsheets and two sets of clothes. That’s all 20-year-old Viola Jackline was able to take with her on her arduous two-week trek by foot from South Sudan to Uganda. Violence in South Sudan drove Viola, her three siblings and their grandmother from their home. They witnessed killings and escaped gunshots. They faced, thirst, hunger, and sexual harassment from armed men before reaching the Ugandan border.  

    The bed sheets allowed Viola and her family to sleep in the bush in a dark, camouflaged area. Her grandmother carried two saucepans to cook what little food they had along the way. Now they are trying to build a life in Uganda’s Imvepi refugee settlement, along with more than 100,000 other South Sudanese. 

    Among the many challenges faced by girls and women like Viola fleeing crises is access to the education and resources to manage their periods. Like other women and girls in the settlement, it was difficult for Viola to find money to buy pads. At times, she’s been forced to sell her food ration in order to buy a piece of cloth and a robe, which is torn and fitted to hold the cloth and then fastened around her waist. It’s a bulky and uncomfortable way for Viola and others to manage their menstrual cycles, but it’s often their only option.

    Periods can make school stressful for female students who are uncomfortable and may not have all the information they need to know what’s going on with their bodies. Boys often tease girls when their uniforms show an outline of a pad or staining and go through their bags looking for menstrual supplies in order to make fun of them. The bullying caused Viola to have low self-esteem, disrupted her focus and isolated her from her schoolmates. One of Viola’s friends, Jenet, dropped out of school after being bullied about a stain on her uniform. 

    Last spring, Viola participated in a menstrual cup pilot at the settlement along with 100 other women and girls. The pilot, supported by European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), CARE, Oxfam, CERFORD and WoMena, trained the group on menstrual hygiene and the use of Ruby Cups, a healthier, more sustainable, and eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons. Ruby cups are made from 100-percent soft, medical-grade silicone and are reusable for up to 10 years.

    Learning to use the cup was more difficult than she anticipated, and Viola nearly gave up. But with the encouragement of her friends in the program, she stuck with it. She says the cup is much more comfortable than other methods, and because it’s reusable, she won’t have to look for money to buy cloth or pads.

    While Viola was confident in using the Ruby Cup, family and neighbors had their doubts. Misperceptions in the community about the cup being a form of birth control or impacting a user’s virginity, among other beliefs, presented a challenge. Men play an important role in decision-making and help shape local perceptions. CARE worked to educate and train a select group of men, known locally as Role Model Men, about menstruation and how to support their wives, sisters, and daughters. Viola had several Role Model Men in her community who helped her family understand the importance of supporting Viola during her cycle and using the Ruby Cup.

    Since she started using a menstrual cup, Viola’s noticed a change in her self-esteem and confidence. She now plays football, participates in youth meetings, and can walk long distances and attend class during her period without having to worry. 

    “I am comfortable and I have confidence,” she says.

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    Far From Home: The 13 Worst Refugee Crises for Girls

     

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    Sophie Akongo

    Violence in South Sudan drove Viola, her three siblings and their grandmother from their home. Photo credit: Peter Caton/CARE

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