Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp

by Transforming Community for Social Change
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Women's Sewing Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Refugee women at workshop.
Refugee women at workshop.

Transforming Community for Social Change (TSCS) has successfully completed two phases of the sewing project. These were Healing and Rebuilding Our Community workshop and Alternatives to Violence workshop for the twenty four participating women. TCSC is looking forward in introducing the third phase next year. The third phase will introduce sewing training and skills for the women, each of the three trainings last for a month. The sewing trainings will be led by experience seamstress Julia Msafiri* from the Congo who is a refugee at the camp. The organization is fundraising funds to buy ten sewing machines that will be used for the training. Then after the training the machines to be used by the women, organized in sewing coops for their income generating activity.

*Name used with permission.

Workshop participants in Kakuma
Workshop participants in Kakuma
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Particpant sewing women in HROC and AVP workshops.
Particpant sewing women in HROC and AVP workshops.

he training had 24 women from South Sudanese, Congolese, Somalis and Burundians who carried traumatic events with them that have destroyed the sustaining bonds between individual and community. Furthermore, the current form of aid is not tailored to the needs, situation and prospects of refugees and host communities. The economic potential of the camp has not been fully utilized and the host community, which is one of the most marginalized in Kenya, feels that it has not benefited much from the presence of refugees Sometimes conflicts escalate, leading to injuries and even deaths on both sides for many refugees, lack of a steady income makes it difficult to buy firewood or charcoal to fill the gap, and so they often gather firewood themselves from the bushes around the camp. This puts them in conflict with the Turkana, who consider themselves the “owners of the soil.”

In the fulfillment and preparation of the Kalobeyei women empowerment entrepreneurship project, both Healing and Rebuilding Our Community and Alternative to Violence trainings were held at Kalobeyei Friend Church in preparation of the second phase which will focus on training on the sewing project.

Healing and Rebuilding our Communities

This basic workshop was a cornerstone in a larger program designed to build community capacity to respond to wide-spread trauma and to strengthen inter- connections and reduce isolation. They are trained to listen compassionately and accompany family members and neighbors on their journeys of healing.

This is an effort to improve relations between the groups and acknowledging that many of the refugees would likely remain in Kenya for the foreseeable future. Those who have survived learn that their sense of self, of worth, of humanity, depends upon a feeling of connection to others. The solidarity of these 24 women provides the strongest protection against terror and despair, and the strongest solution to traumatic experience.


“My trauma isolated me from my family and friends, with hatred of other nationality but this group has re-created a sense of belonging.”

“For seven years I have been shamed and stigmatized for being a refugee. This is the first time I am sitting with a Somali woman. I am glad we share the same pain. I am happy they have all listened to me.”

 “We women have been degraded, dehumanizes and faulted in many ways. We have been victims of very many bad things, this training is restoring our humanity.”

Repeatedly in the testimony of survivors there comes a moment when a sense of connection is restored by another person’s unaffected display of another person’s story which is mirrored in the trauma of others. The survivor recognizes and reclaims a lost part of herself. At that moment, the survivor begins to rejoin the human commonality.

Way forward

The overall objective of this initiative is to re-orient the refugee assistance program to contribute to improvement of the socio-economic conditions of the refugees and host communities, better prepare the host community to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities in upcoming extraction and the phase two of this project will reduce over-dependence on humanitarian aid and support the refugees to achieve durable solutions.    

Trust walk exercises -- even though we didn’t have scarves for blindfolding, participants used their hands to cover. In trauma we both need help and a helper in our journey of healing.

Alternative to Violence

Many refugee people growupsurrounded byviolence,andlearn toseeviolence and abuse ofpower asnormal andeffective responses toconflict. Violence appears tobethe only viable option forresponding toconflict. Themain objective of this training with the 24 women was;

Toraiseawareness ofthepeople haveinaconflict. AVP teaches thatconflict doesnotneed to beavoided and thatitdoesnotneedtobemetwithviolence. Intheideal world, conflicts can beresolved with "win/win" solutions, onesinwhich everyone leaves withtheirneeds met.

Nonviolence isnotjust astateofmindoranattitude towards conflict. Itisa commitment toactively seektochange theforce orsituation thatdegrade andoppress people. Itis acommitment toaddress violence atits roots.

AVPteaches thatthebestwayto overcome injustice is tocome together asa refugee community andturntoeachotherasresources forchange. This grassroots approach toending injustice emphasizes thatchange ispossible if our refugee communitiescome together andthateachperson hasanimportant roletoplay inthe process. Theyrequire skills thatmust belearned andpracticed, skills thatareintimately related toeach other andthatbuild onone another.


“We are entrapped by violence. No one among us that does not share the capacity for violence, and all of us has been hurt or we have hurt others by means of violence. This training is going to help us as women in finding alternatives ways of dealing with violence.”

“As we plan to start our sewing project. I know we will have disagreement among us. Use of I message as a non violent communication will help us.”

Way Forward

This project promotes conflict resolution and reconciliation. With all this skills participants have develop resilience in relieving suffering, poverty and distress and building and maintaining social cohesion and trust, within and between host and refugees communities.

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Project Leader:
Peter Serete
Kakamega, Kenya
$4,896 raised of $10,000 goal
137 donations
$5,104 to go
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