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TEDGlobal 2017

Robert Hakiza: Refugees want empowerment, not handouts

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The prevailing image of where refugees live is of temporary camps in isolated areas -- but in reality, nearly 60 percent of them worldwide end up in urban areas. TED Fellow Robert Hakiza takes us inside the lives of urban refugees -- and shows us how organizations like the one that he started can provide them with the skills they need to ultimately become self-sufficient.

- Urban refugee expert
TED Fellow Robert Hakiza is the co-founder of the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID), which empowers refugees and builds community through vocational education, English classes, access to sports and computer literacy skills. Full bio

Currently, most refugees
live in the cities
00:12
rather than in the refugee camps.
00:17
We represent over 60 percent
00:22
of the number of refugees globally.
00:25
With the majority of refugees
living in urban areas,
00:31
there is a strong need
for a paradigm shift and new thinking.
00:36
Rather than wasting money
on building walls,
00:43
it would be better to spend on programs
00:49
to help refugees to help themselves.
00:53
(Applause)
00:55
We always have to leave behind
all our possessions.
01:02
But not our skills and knowledge.
01:08
If allowed to live a productive life,
01:13
refugees can help themselves
01:17
and contribute to the development
of their host country.
01:20
I was born in the city called Bukavu,
01:26
South Kivu,
01:29
in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
01:31
I am the fifth-born
in a family of 12 children.
01:35
My father, a mechanic by profession,
01:40
worked very hard to send me to school.
01:44
Just like other young people,
01:49
I had a lot of plans and dreams.
01:52
I wanted to complete my studies,
01:56
get a nice job,
01:59
marry and have my own children
02:01
and support my family.
02:04
But this didn't happen.
02:07
War in my homeland forced me
to flee to Uganda in 2008,
02:11
nine years ago.
02:18
My family joined
a steady exodus of refugees
02:22
who settled in Uganda's capital, Kampala.
02:27
In my country,
02:32
I lived already in the city,
02:35
and we felt Kampala was much better
than a refugee camp.
02:37
Refugees in the cities
02:46
have always been denied
international assistance,
02:48
even after their recognition
by UNHCR in 1997.
02:54
In addition to the poverty problem
we were confronted with
03:01
as the local urban poor,
03:07
we were facing challenges
due to our refugee status,
03:10
such as a language barrier.
03:14
In Congo, the official language is French.
03:17
But in Uganda, it is English.
03:21
We didn't have access
to education and health.
03:25
We were exposed to harassment,
03:29
exploitation, intimidation
and discrimination.
03:33
Humanitarian organizations mostly focused
03:39
on the formal settlement in rural areas,
03:43
and there was nothing in place for us.
03:46
But we didn't want handouts.
03:52
We wanted to work and support ourselves.
03:56
I joined my other two colleagues in exile
04:00
and set up an organization
to support other refugees.
04:04
YARID -- Young African Refugees
for Integral Development --
04:08
began as a conversation
within the Congolese community.
04:13
We asked the community
04:19
how they could organize themselves
to solve these challenges.
04:21
The YARID programs for support
evolve in stages,
04:27
progressing from soccer community,
to English language
04:32
to sewing livelihoods.
04:37
The soccer changed the energy
04:41
of unemployed youth
04:46
and connected people
from different communities.
04:48
The free English classes
04:53
help empower people to engage
with the Ugandan community,
04:55
allowing them to get to know
their neighbors and sell wares.
04:59
The vocational training program
offers livelihood skills,
05:05
and with them, important opportunities
for economic self-reliance.
05:11
We've seen so many families
05:16
become self-sustaining.
05:20
We've seen who no longer needs our help.
05:23
As YARID's programs have expanded,
05:28
it has included an increasing
range of nationalities --
05:33
Congolese, Rwandan, Burundian,
05:39
Somalis, Ethiopian, South Sudanese.
05:43
Today, YARID has supported
over 3,000 refugees across Kampala
05:47
and continues supporting more.
05:53
(Applause)
05:55
Refugees want empowerment, not handouts.
05:59
We know our community better than anyone.
06:06
We understand the challenges
and opportunities we face
06:10
to become self-reliant.
06:15
I know better than anyone
06:17
that initiatives created by refugees work.
06:20
They need to be internationally
recognized and supported.
06:24
Give us the support we deserve,
06:29
and we will pay you back with interest.
06:32
Thank you so much.
06:34
(Applause)
06:36

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About the speaker:

Robert Hakiza - Urban refugee expert
TED Fellow Robert Hakiza is the co-founder of the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID), which empowers refugees and builds community through vocational education, English classes, access to sports and computer literacy skills.

Why you should listen

Robert Hakiza is a refugee from Congo living in Uganda since 2008. He holds a degree in Agriculture from the Catholic University of Bukavu (DRC), and he's the co-founder and executive director of the Young African Refugees for Integral Development (YARID). He is also one of the founders of the Refugee-Led Organization Network. He has experience working with urban refugees and also works to educate others about obstacles refugees face. In 2013, Hakiza worked as an assistant researcher with Oxford's Humanitarian Innovation Project. He is a TED Fellow and an Aspen New Voices Fellow 2017.

More profile about the speaker
Robert Hakiza | Speaker | TED.com