Making ends meet in Nairobi
December 13, 2010 by The IRC
|Photo: Women's Refugee Commission|
Jina Krause-Vilmar is Senior Program Officer for Livelihoods at our affiliate organization, the Women's Refugee Commission. This post originally appeared on the Women's Refugee Commission blog.
I stepped off of a teeming street into Aamina’s* apartment, where the floury, slightly sour scent of injera lingered in the air. A round stove, a small TV, and a set of bunk beds lined the teal-gray walls of the one-room flat that Aamina shares with her two children and two employees. The tiny, crowded space also serves as Aamina’s place of business. She bakes injera, the spongy Ethiopian flatbread, to sell in her neighborhood.
Aamina came to Eastleigh, a sprawling slum in Nairobi, Kenya, after her husband was killed by the government in Ethiopia. Fearing for her family’s safety, Aamina escaped across the border with her mother and her two young children. She decided to settle in the city because she feared that Kenya’s refugee camps lacked economic opportunities and the health services her ailing mother depends on. But like millions of other refugees living in urban environments today, she struggles to provide for her family, relying on whatever means and skills she can.
Making ends meet is often difficult and dangerous for refugees living in cities, where paying rent and buying food can be a daily struggle and finding work is complicated. Most host countries do not allow refugees to work legally, so people find themselves forced to take jobs that pay “under the table.” Refugees with no legal protection risk exploitation and abuse by their employers. Even refugees like Aamina who manage to start their own small business face severe challenges.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.