Refugees access the global market

Initial vocational education and training, Migration
The novel coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of enhancing collaborations and effective partnerships among all sectors and stakeholders. The development world was not left behind in its efforts to implement sustainable projects under the ‘new normal’. Despite having different mandates, several organisations have collaborated to ensure their beneficiaries continuously improve their livelihoods and achieve some form of independence despite the uncertain challenging times.

The Skills for Life project tried to make the most of the situation and explored various engagements with other organisations working within the refugee space. One fruitful partnership was solidified with the Action Africa Help (AAH-I) through its initiative Safe from the Start. This initiative, which is supported by UNHCR, works with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and those at risk of the same. UNHCR aims to fight the issue upfront with a range of innovative, scalable and community-based programs that are changing the way different units collaborate.

Samples of the finished bracelet designs sold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The partnership established a global market opportunity for the Skills for Life beneficiaries who had previously completed training in handicraft making. The project team identified refugee women who graduated from the course and contracted them to join a larger group of people who designed and produced bracelets for sale at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This initiative was made possible through the MADE51 project which connects refugees with social enterprise partners to design, produce and market artisanal products around the world.

"Working with already skilled beneficiaries from the Skills for Life project was very advantageous since we were able to deliver on the order of 5,000 crafted bracelets. We’ve been able to create a link to not only local clients but international markets too. We encourage such synergies with like-minded organisations since they untap the potential of refugees and host communities and highlight opportunities available in certain market value chains."
Mika Mitoko, AAH-I representative

The Skills for Life project linked 75 refugee and host community women to this activity which presented a great opportunity to earn an additional income of CHF 2,115. Beneficiaries also got to learn the basic requirements of accessing an international market.

Kina's Experience

Kina Adong' happily at work

Kina Adong’ fled to Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement in 2017, after conflict broke out in her native country, South Sudan. Unfortunately, she had lost her husband in the disarray and became a single parent left with the pressure of raising her seven children. The humanitarian aid she received at the settlement was not enough and Kina quickly realised she needed a steady income to support all her family’s needs. She harnessed her bread-making skill and tried to sell her baked products within the camp, but her returns were sparse. One day, she heard about a meeting with the local leadership of the area and decided to attend. This is where she heard about the Skills for Life project and the training options they offered. She jumped on the opportunity and enrolled for the handicraft making course. She hoped the skill would open pathways for her to earn additional income. The training took three months and shortly after, her learning group transformed into a business group that devotedly worked together to produce different handicrafts for sale to the local market. Kina was a very driven team player and soon took up the marketing role within her group:

"My personality allows me to get along with people, so I decided to use this to my advantage. I engaged different people with our product offering and was soon able to expand my network and increase the group sales. I’m glad that the training we received from the Skills for Life project was all-inclusive. It did not only focus on the technical bit of handicraft making but also delved into other skills like marketing and entrepreneurship. After I internalised this information, I was able to identify what didn’t work for me in my previous business venture,” explains Kina. She adds:

"When Swisscontact linked us to the Safe from the Start initiative and the MADE51 platform, we were so excited. We were happy to work hard to fulfil the order and showcase our skills internationally. Just to think that a bracelet I had made would be showcased to a global market and worn by people I had not physically met was unimaginable. I never thought this was possible."

Despite it being a short-term contract, Kina remains optimistic that her business group will attract more clients due to the exposure they received.

Kina with her business group members during production

The partnership marks the second successful engagement Swisscontact has had with AAH-I. In 2020, 15 project beneficiaries from the host community who had been trained in tailoring were contracted to produce 3,750 facemasks. Swisscontact linked the beneficiaries to the activity while AAH-I sourced for the local market. This engagement saw the beneficiaries earn CHF 1,500 as additional income.

Skills for Life is currently in its third implementation phase. It seeks to strengthen the income-generating capabilities of youth from the host and refugee communities in Kakuma by enhancing their technical, financial, life and literacy skills. The project is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Swisscontact in Kenya.