The first female constructor in Rwamwanja

Hawa Andrew constructs a wall. Photo: LWF/ S. Nalubega
Hawa Andrew constructs a wall. Photo: LWF/ S. Nalubega

LWF provides education and job opportunities to Congolese refugees

Hawa Andrew has the most beautiful house in Rwamwanja refugee settlement, Uganda.

That at least is the opinion of her family, who lives with her, and of course of the person who constructed it: Hawa Andrew herself. The 18-year-old Congolese refugee obtained a builder’s certificate after receiving a scholarship from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

The young woman never pictured a career as a builder when growing up; she dreamt of becoming a medical doctor. That dream ended when fighting forced her to drop out of school, and eventually even flee her country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to neighboring Uganda.

In Rwamwanja refugee camp, she was chosen as one of 101 young people to receive a scholarship by LWF. These scholarships are part of the LWF livelihoods work. They aim to equip young people with skill sets which will help them earn a living and be self-reliant. Andrew was selected by her community and LWF, based on vulnerability and family needs, to train Building and Construction Practice (BCP) at the Uganda Rural Development Training Centre (URDT) in 2015.

The young Congolese was the only woman in a group of 11 scholarship recipients. “What men can do, women can do as well - with perfection,” she says.

 

“She works very diligently and does better and tidier work than many men in her construction group,” says Margaret Nyangoma, an LWF project officer.

Income source

Today, Andrew can be found on construction sites, braving weather and heights while laying foundations, building walls and erecting roofs. After she graduated, Andrew and four other construction graduates were contracted by LWF to construct houses for people with special needs in the settlement.

 

The houses are given to other refugees who can’t construct their own shelter, like persons with disabilities, families headed by women or children, and the elderly.

“All the construction group members are scholarship beneficiaries who acquired professional knowledge and skills in construction,” Nyangoma says. “Because of their expertise, we always prioritise them.”

The dream house

Andrew used her first salary to buy food, clothes and shoes for herself and her family. While she waited for another assignment, she started making bricks for a bigger house for her family. Then she purchased cement, nails and poles. In November 2016, Andrew constructed a new house for her  family in Mahani village.

 

“My parents like it and my siblings are living comfortably since they don’t have to share a bedroom with our parents anymore,” Andrew adds.

As a woman in a traditional men’s profession, Andrew is sometimes mocked by members of the Congolese refugee community. “When I work, people gather around the site and make fun of me. They say it is unusual for a Congolese woman to climb walls and build roofs like men,” she recalls.

For Hawa Andrew however, this is just another incentive to continue her new profession. She  wants to inspire other young women to venture into male-dominated sectors of work: “The mockery and accidents on the job have only made me stronger and more cautious,” she says, adding that she wants to inspire other girls to venture into professions traditionally thought of as men’s professions.

The scholarships for young people are part of the LWF project ‘Protection and Sustainable Solutions for South Sudanese and Congolese refugees in Uganda’ in Rwamwanja and Adjumani refugee settlements. The project consists of interventions in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), protection and livelihoods. The training for young people is part of the livelihoods component.

 

The scholarships for young people are part of the LWF project ‘Protection and Sustainable Solutions for South Sudanese and Congolese refugees in Uganda’ in Rwamwanja and Adjumani refugee settlements. The project consists of interventions in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), protection and livelihoods. The training for young people is part of the livelihoods component.

LWF livelihoods projects in Uganda are in line with the ReHope strategy of self-reliance and resilience initiatives currently being led by the UN and the World Bank. It is a key building block in delivering on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Uganda.

The project is funded by the United States Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM).

LWF also provides modest shelters to people with special needs to improve their standard of living. Such shelters are constructed by refugees and host community residents who are contracted and paid by LWF with funds from BPRM.

 

All photos: LWF/ S. Nalubega