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news | July 06, 2016 | Mali | Development

From Mali to Niger: Hassana’s story, a refugee woman who became tailor

Beneficiaries of the vocational training during the graduation ceremony in Tabareybarey refugee camp - ACTED Niger, 2016

Since 2014, ACTED in Niger implements a project to promote economic empowerment of Malian refugees and host communities in the Tillabery area, Niger. ACTED organised a graduation ceremony to promote the involvement of beneficiaries in the project, which was also the occasion to distribute starter kits. Hassana, a young woman who found refuge in Niger after fleeing Mali, talks about her experience as a participant in ACTED’s sewing training.

On a Friday afternoon in late May, the wind blows across Tabareybarey refugee camp. The scorching heat, the blazing sun and the desert sand discourages people from moving. A local resident even says: “It’s actually fine comparing to other days”.

Despite the scorching heat, the hangar located at the camp entrance is particularly crowded. Today is indeed a special day for many refugees and members of host communities: after an intense and complete training, participants in ACTED’s project for vocational training and empowerment of refugees will receive their certificate of participation and a starter kit to allow them to start their business activity.

Setting up vocational workshops

Since the beginning of the Malian crisis in 2012, ACTED supports Malian refugees, returning Nigerien populations and host communities of Tillabery, at the Malian border. Close to 60 000 refugees left their countries and found refuge in the region, especially in Abala, Mangaize and Tabareybarey camps.

In September 2014, the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (BPRM) of the US Department of State started to support ACTED’s activities in the Malian refugee camps. This support allowed to set up income generating activities, benefitting to over 1200 households. The local NGO AJEDEV (Youth for Development) supported ACTED in the implementation of this project. 150 youth participated in vocational training in sewing, mechanics, welding and electricity. Following the vocational training, ACTED organised a graduation ceremony and distributed starter kits, to attach greatest value to the beneficiaries’ work.

From Mali to Tabareybarey refugee camp: A first step towards empowerment

On the occasion of the graduation ceremony, Hassana, a 20-year-old mother of two, told us her story. Hassana comes from Ansongo, in Mali. She lives in Niger since 2012. The young woman arrived from Mali with her family on the back of a donkey, and couldn’t bring anything with her due to the difficult travelling conditions. The journey to Mali lasted 3 days. Since then, Hassana lives in Tabareybarey with her family. Hassana explains that she fled from Mali because of the war, insecurity and attacks in the region and also in her village.

Before arriving in Niger, Hassana used to sell condiments like spices, oil and canned food. Thanks to the support from international organisations like ACTED, Hassana can meet her daily food, water, hygiene and shelter needs. The young woman also keeps on running her small shop, which allows her to improve her living conditions.

Hassana participated in a 3-month vocational sewing training, and completed a 1-month practical term in a workshop in Ayorou city. The training was satisfactory: Hassana says that what she liked most was her integration, mastership of a profession and autonomy.

“I will apply the sewing knowledge and skills I acquired to earn my own revenue and be able not to rely on humanitarian assistance anymore.”

Hassana aspires to keep on running her activities, first within the camp, and then outside the camp, once her household will be able to be relocated. She would like to receive support to have her own workshop and to buy textile material to produce dresses that she could sell. She also would like to share her sewing expertise with other women, and to keep on running her activities to earn her own revenue.

Hassana doesn’t wish to go back to Mali. She rather wants to develop her activity and to live from it: “I will practice my sewing skills to live from it, and to be able not to rely on humanitarian assistance anymore.”

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