My Story: A Testimony from Fatima, a refugee from Southern Sudan
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June 20, 2016

My Story: A Testimony from Fatima*, a refugee from Southern Sudan

Wobulenzi Youth Association participants attend a community dialogue meeting on refugee protection and engagement.

On June 20th, VGIF and our grantee network along with the United Nations and peer organizations will recognize World Refugee Day.

This annual day is held to raise awareness of the situation of refugees around the world. In this month’s Flash, Fatima, a young Muslim woman and a participant of 2015 VGIF-funded project, Wobulenzi Youth Association, tells her story:

“My life changed when I was 19 years old. I lost my parents at a tender age and I lived much of my life in Southern Sudan with adoptive parents. One evening, armed men [entered the community], they shot everywhere and everybody was running. Two people were killed. I was arrested and charged with inciting violence. I was confined to a tiny room, with a small high window, no mattress and no blanket, for three months. It was hell! A compassionate police officer, whom I saw with my adoptive parents years back, recognized me and helped me and another female, Aziida, escape. He gave us directions to safe paths and border crossings into Uganda. We pleaded with him to escort us but for fear of his own life, he refused.

Wobulenzi Youth Association engages community members on refugee rights and protection.
It took me and Aziida three days to get to Uganda with no food and water. We picked fruits from peoples’ gardens as we trekked and that is how our refugee life started. Through begging for lifts, carrying luggage at bus stops, doing quick odd jobs, and working in make-shift restaurants, we raised money for bus tickets to Wobulenzi. We went in search of employment after somebody assured us of job opportunities for young girls. Little did we know that what young girls did in this trading center was prostitution! Aziida couldn’t manage the situation any longer and she decided to get into a fake marriage with a local business man to get legal papers to stay. I asked for the nearby mosque and told my story to the Imam who allowed me to stay with his family as I worked as a house-help at the family.

In 2013, the Imam’s wife introduced me to Wobulenzi Youth Association where she volunteers. After that, I became an active volunteer and mentor. In 2015, the organization received a VGIF grant to train young female refugees as paralegals to have the knowledge, resources, and skills to help other female refugees access justice and services, especially as related to gender based violence. I was nominated as technical volunteer to Sudanese refugees. I travel to the juvenile centers every month and do translations and documentation and I take photos. I also counsel detained juvenile refugees and I am being trained as a paralegal. I know about my civil, legal, economic and human rights as a refugee, and I was supported with free legal support to get a five-year visa in Uganda.
A Wobulenzi Youth Association associate conducted a HIV/AIDS test for a refugee in a detention center during a support visit.
I intend to use my knowledge and skills to help young refugees integrate into the host society, be part of the workforce, have access to free legal services, gain access to medical care and a right to participate in the decision making process in the host community. I am empowered, my voice can be heard and I have very high self-esteem. One day, I hope I can be in a position to support as many refugees with my knowledge and personal experiences. I hope to receive vocational training skills to get a permanent income generating activity and still pass on these skills to as many refugees as I possibly can.”

* Name changed to maintain privacy of participant.

Sign the #WithRefugee Petition Today

Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition today to encourage governments to work together to do more for refugees. Your voice will send a clear message to governments that they must with solidarity and shared responsibility:  http://www.unhcr.org/refugeeday/petition/.

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