Photo essay: In DRC, women refugees rebuild lives, with determination and hope

Date : 18 May 2016

Burundi’s ongoing political turmoil has caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and seek shelter in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the Lusenda refugee camp, which is home to more than 16,000 refugees, the majority are women and girls. Hundreds of refugees have come to the Safe Haven multipurpose centres for protection and economic and social empowerment, established by UN Women [1]. Here’s a glimpse into daily life at the camp and the centres.

When her husband was arrested during the 2015 political crisis, Luscie, 32, fled the Bujumbura province in Burundi with her eight children, with only the clothes on their backs. Since then they have been refugees at the Lusenda camp in DRC.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

When her husband was arrested during the 2015 political crisis, Luscie, 32, fled the Bujumbura province in Burundi with her eight children, with only the clothes on their backs. Since then they have been refugees at the Lusenda camp in DRC.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


With the help of a camp worker, Luscie, right, hauls rock and clay from a river back to a UN Women multipurpose centre for use in building a clay stove. UN Women has established three Safe Haven multipurpose centres, which offer psychosocial counselling, referrals, skills training and cash-for-work programmes.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

With the help of a camp worker, Luscie, right, hauls rock and clay from a river back to a UN Women multipurpose centre for use in building a clay stove. UN Women has established three Safe Haven multipurpose centres, which offer psychosocial counselling, referrals, skills training and cash-for-work programmes.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


Luscie, left, and Marita, right, work to make a handmade clay stove. At the multipurpose centres, they’ve learned to make stoves which help cut the cost of feeding their families. “It takes less charcoal and the surface stays hot longer,” says Marita.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

Luscie, left, and Marita, right, work to make a handmade clay stove. At the multipurpose centres, they’ve learned to make stoves which help cut the cost of feeding their families. “It takes less charcoal and the surface stays hot longer,” says Marita.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


Also at the multipurpose centre, Luscie, far right, joined the collective efforts to cultivate vegetables for a shared profit. Her goal: to make enough money to replace her children’s torn clothes.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

Also at the multipurpose centre, Luscie, far right, joined the collective efforts to cultivate vegetables for a shared profit. Her goal: to make enough money to replace her children’s torn clothes.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


Luscie with her children. Many women in the camp are widows and have had to become heads of their households, taking on the responsibility for the children, the sick or the elderly. They need services and resources. Through the multipurpose centres, nearly 300 women in Lusenda have gained temporary employment through cash-for-work programmes. Another 80 women and girls acquired soap-making skills and 38 learned how to operate a camp restaurant.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

Luscie with her children. Many women in the camp are widows and have had to become heads of their households, taking on the responsibility for the children, the sick or the elderly. They need services and resources. Through the multipurpose centres, nearly 300 women in Lusenda have gained temporary employment through cash-for-work programmes. Another 80 women and girls acquired soap-making skills and 38 learned how to operate a camp restaurant.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


Women who are part of the agriculture programme gather early to attend to the crops they cultivate collectively.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

Women who are part of the agriculture programme gather early to attend to the crops they cultivate collectively.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


he women learn how to plant many different kinds of crops. After working in the collective, some of them are able to plant and harvest vegetables outside of their temporary houses at the refugee camp.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

The women learn how to plant many different kinds of crops. After working in the collective, some of them are able to plant and harvest vegetables outside of their temporary houses at the refugee camp.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


With UN Women’s assistance, in 2015, 264 women refugees contributed to the camp’s food security after being trained to grow vegetables.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

With UN Women’s assistance, in 2015, 264 women refugees contributed to the camp’s food security after being trained to grow vegetables.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


After finishing their morning’s work, the women often walk back to the UN Women multipurpose centre, where they can also find information on women’s rights and receive psychological support and counselling. In the camp, refugee women face social isolation, harassment, domestic violence and other types of sexual and gender-based violence.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

After finishing their morning’s work, the women often walk back to the UN Women multipurpose centre, where they can also find information on women’s rights and receive psychological support and counselling. In the camp, refugee women face social isolation, harassment, domestic violence and other types of sexual and gender-based violence.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


Celestine, a refugee at the Lusenda camp, leads a dance performance organized by youth at a multipurpose centre in October 2015. The centres also serve as safe spaces for women to feel comfortable and express themselves, without the fear of judgement or harm.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

Celestine, a refugee at the Lusenda camp, leads a dance performance organized by youth at a multipurpose centre in October 2015. The centres also serve as safe spaces for women to feel comfortable and express themselves, without the fear of judgement or harm.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


In the midst of all the daily challenges, women attending the dance performance have a moment to laugh together. One of the goals of the centres is to help refugee women socialize, make new friends and rebuild their social networks. “We should not give up but fight for a better life for our children!” say the women in the Lusenda refugee camp.  Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina

In the midst of all the daily challenges, women attending the dance performance have a moment to laugh together. One of the goals of the centres is to help refugee women socialize, make new friends and rebuild their social networks. “We should not give up but fight for a better life for our children!” say the women in the Lusenda refugee camp.

Photo: UN Women/Catianne Tijerina


UN Women works so that women and girls in protracted crises have access to the services they need to ensure their recovery and develop their resilience to future crises.

For larger-format images, you can also find this photo essay cross-posted on Medium.

For more information on Women in Humanitarian Action, visit our In Focus section.

Notes

[1] The UN Women multipurpose centres are run in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), its local partner Rebuild Hope for Africa and the Women Refugee Committee, with funding from the Government of Japan.