Refugees are normally seen as a desperate group of a society. Rarely are they seen as individuals capable of contributing positively to the economy, but rather troublemakers and a burden to a host country.
Refugee artisans, who participated in Artisan Exhibition held at the Kigali Convention Center on Friday 15, September, defied this notion.
One Colette is one of the refugees. She attended the exhibition from Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi District. She showcased beautiful wooden bracelets and different other ornamental handicrafts such as elephants and giraffes.
She told Taarifa that she earns Rwf50, 000 per month, but says if she were able to access a larger market, she would collect more revenues.
“We do many good things, but don’t have a wider market to sell them,” Colette said.
Maurice Burume Macumu who is also from Kiziba refugee camp, started his art in the 1990s. He says he has one great barrier. The market.
“The only barrier that I have is access to a market. I do many good things, but I get a few customers possible,” he said.
Macumu has since stopped making new things. However he hopes that the exhibition created awareness and hopefully they will be able to attract clientele and a wider market.
“We have never had this chance, but I hope we were able to showcase what we do,” he added.
The Exhibition was prepared and financed by the UNHCR.
The UNHCR Representative to Rwanda, Ahmed Baba Fall, told Taarifa that they organised the exhibition in order to give the refugees a chance to showcase their artisan and other economic activities they are involved in.
“This is an opportunity that we give the refugees to showcase what they are able to produce and create new beautiful things,” he said.
Mr. Ahmed said that this is just a sample of events that UNHCR will organize in order to allow refugees to exhibit their handicrafts.
He noted that refugees are also able to create and innovate, and as a result develop themselves as well as contribute to the national economy despite their status.
“This is a very good opportunity that we give the refugees to show that they do not only sit down in the camps and only wait for food,” he said.
There are many other refugees who have enterprises of beautiful objects. They also pay taxes.
The exhibition was organized by UNHCR in collaboration with Radisson Blu. Different objects such as giraffes, bracelets, and containers for holding small items were on display.