Mary, a South Sudanese refugee, has lived in Imvempi Refugee Settlement in Terego district in Uganda with her husband and three children since 2017. With funding from the Government of Japan, UN Women implemented the Leadership Empowerment Access and Protection (LEAP) project in the refugee settlement and Mary was able to participate in trainings which have enabled her to get engaged in productive activities and fend for her family. Mary is currently engaged in farming raising small animals (rabbits, guinea pigs) and crop growing especially sesame and sorghum.
Life in a refugee settlement was very challenging since we had no money to provide for the basic needs. I depended solely on my husband yet even him raising an income to provide for the family was difficult.
In 2021, Peace Winds Japan, a partner of UN Women, came into our community and trained us on a vision journey. While the training was good, I wondered how I would even put the knowledge into practice since I had no money at all. At the end of the training, Peace Winds Japan linked us to cash for work opportunities within our settlement. The money I earned from the cash for work intervention helped to put into action my vision journey. I used the money to start a small business and the profit I earned enabled me to not only buy food for the family but also to save in our village savings and loan association (VSLA).
From the cash for work payment, I was also able to buy 4 rabbits. Rabbits multiply very fast and within a couple of months they had multiplied. I sold some and used the money to buy food, save and also rent land from the host community so that I can engage in farming. I have also utilized the land allocated to us as refugees to plant sim sim (sesame seeds) and sorghum. When I harvest, I sell part of the yield and invest the money in business but also keep some of the harvest for food. While my business was affected by COVID 19, I am saving the little I earn from the sale of rabbits and guinea pigs with the hope that at the end of 2023 I will use my share to resume business and buy goats.
I am glad that I participated in this program. I did not know where to start making my life better but the vision journey training empowered me and gave me a starting point. I am now able to buy some household items and when my child falls sick, I can sell what I have and pay medical bills.
Previously, whenever I would ask for money from my husband, we ended up fighting because he too was not earning. But now when I make some money, we share it and this has made our lives better. We are now working together to cultivate a bigger garden from the land we rent in the host community. Working together has made our lives better.
Originally published on UN Women’s regional website for Africa