Empowering Women Refugees in Uganda

WFP supports 1.1 million refugees in Uganda with life-saving food assistance, three times more than this time last year. In 2016, Uganda received the single largest refugee influx from South Sudan in its history with over 489,000 new arrivals. Eighty-six percent of the new refugees are women and children. On International Women’s Day, Noreen – a South Sudanese refugee tells WFP why she stands up for the rights of her community on food.

Noreen fled South Sudan with her two sons in January, arriving at Palorinya settlement, Northern Uganda with just the clothes on their backs. Palorinya opened in December 2016 and now hosts around 135,000 refugees. As a member of the Food Management Committee, Noreen represents her community of 100 people living in Zone I.

“As a member of the Food Management Committee, I like that I can make a difference within my community,” explained Noreen. “I am here on the days when WFP is distributing the food and I can answer any queries or problems which people are having. Some people like beans others like peas, I just listen and say I will represent them by giving their feedback to WFP.”

Food Management Committees are elected within refugee communities in Uganda to make sure they own the process of food delivery and communicate on behalf of WFP. They spread the word on food distribution dates and then oversee on the day at every stage from offloading food from the trucks to supporting vulnerable persons. 


If a man can do this, then why can't I?

In South Sudan it is uncommon for women to participate in any formal work.  Noreen explained that she was inspired to join the Food Management Committee as she wanted to show the women in her community that things can be different and women should actively be involved, especially when it comes to food.  

“Food is life. We have to be there as women, the ones cooking for our families, the experts on what is good and bad food – we must be part of the committee to observe that the food given to us is good enough.  When you lack certain things, you get sick. Without a balanced diet – our bodies will fail us,” said Noreen. 

Noreen and her fellow committee members from the refugee community oversee the weighing of the food. They check that the right ration is going to the right family size. Food distribution days are long for her and her colleagues, often starting at 8am and not finishing until after 6pm.  

“Women should stand together every day, participate and be given the same jobs as men do. This does not mean we have to disrespect our men, the job opportunities should simply be the same,” a simple, yet powerful message from Noreen.  


Story by Claire Nevill