Refugee Children speak about their lives through photos
The photographs taken by the participants in Gihembe, Kigeme, Kiziba and Nyabiheke have offered UNHCR the opportunity to learn more about the daily lives and the opinions of the refugee teenagers, and to discuss gender perceptions among the adolescents in the camps.
Since November 2017, UNHCR, with the support of its partners, GIZ and Plan International, has been conducting an activity called “Youth Photography Project” in four refugee camps in Rwanda, Gihembe, Kigeme, Kiziba and Nyabiheke camps which host refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project is a component of the Participatory Assessment exercise that UNHCR and partners carried out in September and October 2017 in Kigali, Huye, and all the refugee camps in Rwanda (the report is available for download here).
In order to ensure that the voices of refugee teenagers are heard, UNHCR Rwanda has opted to use photography for its Participatory Assessment. In each camp, the activity consisted in forming 10 pairs of refugee children aged from 14 to 17, teaching them the basics of photography, handing them digital cameras and having them taking photographs of their daily lives based on themes assigned to them. The subjects given to the young photographers allow UNHCR and partners to know more about the teenagers’ expectations and dreams or prospects for their future, their family life, their solutions to day-to-day problems, the characteristics of their role models, the sources of safety in their daily life, as well as their hobbies and passions.
In addition to UNHCR and partners’ staff support, UNHCR has secured the assistance of Lieven Corthouts, a Belgian photographer and filmmaker who is the director of several documentaries featuring teenagers in Ethiopia and in Kenya where he conducted similar projects with refugee youth. Lieven volunteered to assist in teaching refugee teenagers on how to use the cameras and taking well-structured photographs. The activity, which took place during a week in each of the above mentioned camps is planned to be implemented in other locations of Rwanda during the school holidays.
Through the activity, refugee children have learned new forms of expression. Thanks to the themes assigned to them, photography also encouraged intellectual stimulation and creativity, with some of the children dressing up as the desired subject of their photos and taking photos that openly challenged stereotypical gender perceptions. The photographs taken by the participants in Gihembe, Kigeme, Kiziba and Nyabiheke have offered UNHCR the opportunity to learn more about the daily lives and the opinions of the refugee teenagers, and to discuss gender perceptions among the adolescents in the camps.
The participants have given positive feedback on the activity, appreciating the opportunity to learn new skills, i.e. how to use cameras and how to take good photographs. Their parents recognized the value of the initiative and were proud of the good work done by their children. The community mobilizers who supported the adolescents in the activity also approved of the initiative that allowed children to truly voice their opinions. At the end of the exercise, some of the participants reported feeling inspired to become photographers or journalists when they grow up.
Photography workshop in Nyabiheke refugee camp, January 2018 - UNHCR Staff explain the project to the children
Photography workshop in Nyabiheke refugee camp, January 2018 Children learn how to use the cameras.
Photography workshop in Nyabiheke refugee camp, January 2018 Children are assigned the subjects that they will have to take photos on.
Chanteline and Wase, Kigeme refugee camp - “We took this photo of a boy who works as an electrician because we trust that, if we study the right subjects at school, even if we are girls, one day we can become technicians.”
Paul and Fabrice, Kiziba refugee camp - “We admire those refugees who have a job they are proud of, like making traditional handicrafts.”
Jacqueline and Grace, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "She is woman and a refugee. We admire her because she has managed to pursue a career."
Moses and Faustin, Gihembe refugee camp - "My grandmother is my role model, because she is taking care of me, while my parents work outside of the camp."
Moses and Faustin, Gihembe refugee camp - "We admire these women who sell vegetables to contribute to the income of the household and provide care for their children."
Dieudonne and Mupenzi, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "We admire this young man because he knows how to fix shoes. Fixing things, instead of throwing them away, is an important skill to have, as it makes refugees feel safer."
Patrick and Eric, Kigeme refugee camp - "Since we have left our country (DRC), we have been praying more often. Religion offers an opportunity for us to mingle with the Rwandan community, as we all go to the same church."
Claude and Muhire, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "Reading,learning and sharing new things can help us solving our problems."
Bazizane and Nyampundu, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "When we can farm, we live better. Harvesting can solve many of our problems."
Bazizane and Nyampundu, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "In this photo, one of us has dressed up like a nurse performing a vaccination, to show that preventing illnesses can solve refugees’ daily problems."
Gentille and Perpetue, Gihembe refugee camp - "When we need advice, we can ask the elderly."
Patrick and Eric, Kigeme refugee camp - "When children have some problems, the first thing that they should do is to avoid isolation."
Denise and Jolie, Kigeme refugee camp - "In our country (DRC), many children could not go to school. Here in Rwanda, education is provided for boys and girls, starting from a very young age. This makes us feel safe."
Justin and Yves, Kigeme refugee camp - "All the organizations working for the refugees in Kigeme are making us feel safe."
Gervais and Jonathan, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "Knowing that it’s possible to withdraw cash on a regular basis is making it easier for our parents to plan the family expenses. This makes us all feel safer."
Gervais and Jonathan, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "By watching TV, we get to learn what happens in the world. Unfortunately, it is mostly only us boys who are allowed to go watch TV at the TV shop. Girls will hopefully be able to join too soon!"
Denise and Jolie, Kigeme refugee camp - "Playgrounds for the children and the activities of the Plan International community mobilizers make us feel safe."
Jeanine and Olive, Kigeme refugee camp - "This child is intent on making his own ball, it looks like nothing can disturb him. We think this is what safety looks like."
Paul and Fabrice, Kiziba refugee camp - "We feel safe when we can ride
Mahoro and Mbabazi, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "When food is available at the market, we feel safe."
Yves and Gasore Papy, Gihembe refugee camp - "Technology helps us feel safe. Thanks to mobile phones, we are able to keep in contact with family and friends."
Jeanine and Olive, Gihembe refugee camp - "What makes us feel safe? Sharing a meal does!"
Rukundo and Innocent, Kiziba refugee camp - "Here in Kiziba, children like to perform these acrobatic jumps. It requires a lot of practice… and some broken bones!"
Liliane and Divine, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "In our free time, we like to read the Ni Nyampinga magazine."
Bosco and Fabrice, Kigeme refugee camp - "In our free time we like to watch TED Talks and learn new things."
Frank and Olivier, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "In their free time, children wash their clothes. Not only girls! We boys also do that."
Bosco and Fabrice, Kigeme refugee camp - "In our free time we like to play cards and board games. Boys and girls often play together."
David and Samuel, Gihembe refugee camp - "The tailor in this photo is our friend. He is also a teenager in Gihembe. His parents are tailors, and when he is free from school he practices tailoring."
Rukundo and Innocent, Kiziba refugee camp - "We like taekwondo so much! It teaches us to defend ourselves, and the more time we spend practicing, the less time we spend getting into troubles…!"
Frank and Olivier, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "When children have free time, they play and they dance. Children are cheerful!"
Penine and Solange, Kigeme refugee camp - "Reading and doing our homework is something we children like to do, when we are not in school."
Angélique and Celine, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "When we grow up, we want to ride a moto, or drive a car. We see no reasons why a woman should not be a driver!"
Nibonana and Aimerance, Kiziba refugee camp - "We do not often buy new clothes. But when we will be older, we hope that we will be living well enough to be able to buy the clothes that we like."
Bienfait, Ode and Innocent, Kigeme refugee camp - "One of us has a hearing impairment, and for this reason our group was composed of three members instead of two. In this photo you see Innocent, who helped his older brother communicating during the project. When Innocent grows up he wants to become an intellectual, maybe a journalist."
Heritier and Nkomeza, Nyabiheke refugee camp - "In Nyabiheke, boys and girls often play basketball, football and do martial arts together. Some of us are very good and could one day become professional players."
Bienfait, Ode and Innocent, Kigeme refugee camp - "In the future, we would like to run a business. A bakery would not be a bad idea."
Faustin, Delphin, Gihembe refugee camp In Gihembe - "Many boys like to play music, and hope to become musicians one day."
Aline and Consolee, Gihembe refugee camp - "When I grow up I want to be a journalist and work in a radio station."