The Finnish Refugee Council, UNHCR and the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister have named Rwandan Solange Mukanlambara, living in Oruchinga refugee settlement, as Uganda’s Refugee Woman of the Year 2019. This is the eighth time the Refugee Woman of the Year is nominated in Uganda.
Mrs. Mukanlambara arrived in Uganda in 1994 immediately after the Rwandan genocide began. A member of the Hutu tribe, she decided to leave Rwanda with her husband before the situation escalated further. The couple has four children, one of whom they adopted after finding the child abandoned in the streets of Rwanda’s capital Kigali when escaping the conflict.
Mukanlambara is a farmer and has completed school until grade seven. Education is very important to her, and all her four children are already studying. Mukanlambara has continued farming in Uganda in order to ensure sufficient income and food for her family. During the dry seasons, the family’s financial security is guaranteed by dividends and low-interest loans from a savings group of which Mukanlambara is an active member.
Mukanlambara has been the vice chairperson of her community for the last ten years. The position is filled through annual elections but, according to her neighbours, she will continue to be re-elected for as long as she is willing and able to carry out the duties. In addition, Mukanlambara acts as the secretary of her savings group, called Unity, and of a burial group making funeral arrangements for women who pass away without having a family or funds. She is also a mediator in cases of domestic violence and interferes in sexual and gender-based violence incidents within her community by reporting them and increasing awareness of women’s and children’s rights.
Mukanlambara does not have big dreams for herself. Her greatest wish is peace in Rwanda as well as in the world. ’’When you have peace, you have everything’’ she comments. Mukanlambara feels at home and safe in Uganda. While she does not exactly dream of returning to Rwanda, she would be happy to go back if peace was achieved.
Mukanlambara believes that the biggest challenges refugees face are poverty, famine and problems in cooperation with host communities regarding, for example, the conflicts arising from the collection of firewood and grass. ‘’I would like to teach other refugees how to work together to prevent violence and how to create businesses to create income’’ Mukanlambara says. She hopes special attention would be given to people with special needs and to refugees who are struggling to become registered and, therefore, are unable to obtain support.
With the nomination, the Finnish Refugee Council, UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister wish tohighlight the difficulties refugee women face as well as their active role in their communities. Mukanlambara has selflessly and persistently worked for the benefit of her community and is active in improving the wellbeing of those around her. With her courage, determination and positive attitude, Mukanlambara inspires other refugees in her community.
The Finnish Refugee Council has awarded the Refugee Woman of the Year title in Uganda since 2012. The aim of the award is to acknowledge the hard work refugee women do in their communities, to support them to achieve their dreams in their new homeland and to offer an encouraging example of successful reintegration. The award was officially announced on World Refugee Day, 20th June, in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement.