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Uganda: Inspiring change through healthy environment and people
19 March 2014

JRS Kampala staff members, refugees and other humanitarian workers march through the streets of Kampala in a clean-up exercise to mark the International Women's Day. The exercise was organised by JRS Kampala. (Stephen Kuteesa/JRS)
In a refugee situation women exhibit a lot of courage, resilience and in most cases sacrifice for the well-being of their families to include child upbringing and care.

Kampala, 19 March 2014 – During a celebration of its kind in Kampala, JRS organised an environment cleaning exercise with her beneficiaries; the refugees and asylum seekers to commemorate International Women’s Day which falls on March 8, of each year.

Globally women have not only demonstrated to be agents of change but also heroines.  In a refugee situation women exhibit a lot of courage, resilience and in most cases sacrifice for the well-being of their families to include child upbringing and care. Such heroines and agents of greater change need to be cared for, advocated for and protected.  

JRS Kampala appreciates the contributions of women in inspiring positive change therefore advocates that such great people need to be healthy; leaving in a healthy environment. Upon this background under the theme “Healthy Environment: Healthy People: Inspiring Change” JRS  Kampala organised a cleaning exercise of Kabalagala and Kikubamutwe trading centers found in Makindye division of Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) which also host many urban refugee communities. 

The cleaning excise involved picking and proper disposal of littered waste. It started at 2:00pm with participants marching off from the JRS offices picking garbage loading it on trucks and disposing of it. The community service ended at 5:00pm. 

Community involvement. Led by a group of 100 young boys and girls from the Rainbow Jazz Band (70 women and 30 men) participants from urban refugee communities; the representative of the Mayor Makindye Division, the Assistant Inspector General of Kampala Metropolitan Police together with his members from the force and HIAS, a JRS networking partner, attended and participated in the exercise. All participants were easily identifiable in blue JRS t-shirts with the day’s theme clearly printed. 

To achieve social protection and integration for refugees, it is paramount to promote and ensure a harmonious relationship with the host communities. JRS encourages and supports refugees to contribute towards community development through their talents, skills and participation in positive community development activities.  
Didier* said, “These are our communities too because they accommodate us, protect us, feed us… it is our responsibility to ensure that we contribute in any positive way we can for a meaningful change”.

The Mayor of Makindye Division together with the Assistant Inspector General of Kampala Metropolitan Police commended the well-thought exercise by JRS and promised to always give refugees the necessary support to ensure that they integrate well in the community. “This is a wonderful exercise by refugees… you have put in practice your social responsibility and believe me such contributions will continue to bridge up the gaps and the negative perceptions that your hosts have …. Keep it up”, said the Assistant Inspector General of police.

Positive experience during the cleaning exercise. As the jazz band led the procession escorted by police vehicles and garbage trucks slowly following, the participants picked garbage along the streets of the trading centers bringing activities along the way came to a standstill. Many people kept reading the banner written ‘Jesuit Refugee Service - Commemorating Women’s Day: Healthy Environment: Healthy People: Inspiring Change’ and shouted, “Thank you refugees! That is very good! Next time call us to join you…..”

Refugees themselves thanked JRS for the idea which they said will help change the way people perceive them in the host communities.
Refugees have lots of positive contributions towards development of the host communities through participation in community activities, their talents, professions and skills. As we commemorate women’s day 2014, positive change can only be inspired by healthy people leaving in a healthy environment. Let us work together to inspire change. 

*Name has been changed to protect identity

By Kuteesa Stephen, JRS Uganda Country Representative

JRS has been working in Kampala since 1998, responding to the urgent, unmet needs of newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees in vulnerable circumstances. For refugees fleeing conflict, civil unrest or oppressive political circumstances, the JRS Urban Emergency Programme provides information, food and non-food items, rent and medical assistance, transport and psychosocial support. JRS also offers English language lessons and vocational training courses to increase opportunities to earn a living and support themselves. In addition, JRS advocates for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

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