New Skills Give Darfuri Refugee Woman New Life

Posted by HIAS – NY on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm


Photo: Glenna Gordon for HIAS 

At age 40, Amneh Yakum Abbakah is a mother of six, a grandmother of two and, most recently, an entrepreneur. She holds her youngest grandbaby close to her chest as she sets out a welcome mat for visitors to her new shop.

Amneh has been living in Djabal refugee camp in eastern Chad since it opened a decade ago to absorb the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing violence in Darfur. Narrowly escaping a ruinous invasion of her home village, she, her husband, and five children fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Two years ago, Amneh learned about HIAS’ livelihoods training program for refugee women. Part of HIAS’ Sexual and Gender-Based Violence prevention and response program in 12 camps across eastern Chad, workshops provide women with both a safe space and skills to generate income—a pathway to recovering from the violence they have experienced.

“Not only did we learn a craft, we also got training on how to start a business,” Amneh explains.

Amneh learned to weave and soon began taking the baskets and mats she made to the market. Each time she came back with some extra money she put it back into her business, just as she’s learned to do.

Soon Amneh had saved enough to open her own shop, where she now shows off best-sellers like sugar, tea, and millet.

Eight months ago her husband left the camp to find work, and she’s been supporting the entire family since. She is able to supplement her family’s meager food rations and get special additional things like spices.

“Before there was a problem of not having enough food, but now we have plenty. I can visit someone’s home and not show up empty-handed. When someone in the community suffers a loss, I can come and bring something to help,” she adds.

“I am thankful for the program. It has helped me and the other women live again. Having skills gives us a new life,” Amneh beams.

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