Despite her rough past of traumatic experiences, Feza Ramazani, 55, married with 13 dependents has become a beckon of hope for the women in Nakivale Refugee Settlement by being one of the women change makers. Through starting a business from scratch, she is championing soap production with Tusaidiane counselling group to which she is President to.
“Before we joined Tusaidiane group to start soap production, we were many refugees struggling with mental illness and unable to support ourselves in the community, “recalls Feza, “We could barely access our basic needs yet I could see potential among us as ladies. It was until we received counselling from HIJRA that our lives began to transform.”
From the different sessions of counselling, we begun to regain hope and our dreams begun to resurface and take shape. It is then Feza decided to organize the women in her group with different skills in soap production, craft making and tailoring to train the rest of the group members how its group business was born.
The group that has over 80 members now was formed in Base camp II village in 2017 in Nakivale Settlement. Originally a support group for Persons with Special Needs (PSNs) who were finding it hard to cope with their conditions, the group has become a beckon of hope. While counselling the group, HIJRA also provided capacity building, training members in trauma healing and counselling to equip them with skills to support each other given that the group also comprises persons with disability, persons living with post-traumatic stress, elderly and among others.
Due to the lack of knowledge on mental health issues and discussions amongst the refugee community and because it is a topic often not discussed openly due to the stigma that comes with identification with such conditions, many tend to struggle silently. Nakivale has a total number of 50,690(49%)women and 5,014(4%) of Persons with special needs such as Persons with disability, elderly and alone, Albinos and those with chronic diseases, mental disorders, children with cerebral palsy, down syndrome and Autism Spectrum yet support to such persons not available or very minimal thus any form of support to persons with special needs welcomed. However, HIJRA creates awareness on unique conditions as this encouraging communities to identify families that have members with such conditions and encouraging them to seek help but also encourages communities to support them rather than stigmatize them. Speaking to Feza she said;
“From the training and encouragement by HIJRA and by learning different skills to help each other and families with members with such difficult health conditions, the attitude of the participants changed, new friendships sprouted and our livelihood improved a great deal when we started producing liquid soap. Our biggest client that buys our soap is HIJRA which is helping us to market it to other partners in the Settlement. We are now able to support our families and afford the basic needs for survival.” she boasted proudly.
The group also partners with groups within the Settlement like UMOJA charity which is under the livelihood program. Together they share ideas on how to better their situation by using their acquired skills that they also pass on to other refugees looking for self-sustainability.
“I believe through working together as a community and teaching one another, we will achieve and inspire more women. If we can do it, so can they.” Feza
The ladies who have worked with Feza have nothing but praise for her as leader and friend. “She is very kind, supportive and motivating to us all. She always works towards giving us hope and encouraging us not to give up,” says Mama Furaha. “We are so grateful to have a leader like her.”
Feza and the group plan to increase the quality and quantity of their liquid soap production in the future and also engage more community participants so that they realize their full potential.