World’s first refugee camp TEDx talk
Refugee poets, film-makers and teachers have been breaking stereotypes and inspiring the globe by sharing their stories of perseverance and resilience in the first ever TEDx event to be held in a refugee camp.
The event at Kakuma – a massive camp in northern Kenya which is home to 185,000 displaced people – aimed to open a window on the plight of refugees and challenge negative perceptions and stereotypes.
TEDx events and intended to spread ideas through short presentations covering everything from business and technology to environmental and humanitarian issues and are often broadcast live internationally and watched online by millions of viewers.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR facilitated the event and spokesperson said that it gave refugees a voice in innovative conversations for the first time.
“TEDx events are often in privileged settings so we thought about bringing the power of the TED stage to a refugee camp”, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said.
“We wanted refugee speakers to use this platform to tell the world not just what they have gone through, but also show that they too have amazing things to offer,” she said.
Screenings were held at several centres in the camp and also in the nearby Dadaab camp.
There are at least 22 million refugees around the world and almost 70 million displaced people, according to the UNHCR, mostly fleeing conflict, persecution or rights abuses in their countries.
About 90 per cent are being hosted in developing countries including Kenya.
From a stage set up in a white tent in a school playground in Kakuma camp, the refugee speakers spoke of how war had forced them to leave their homes in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Somalia.
The speakers talked of their struggles to restart their lives as refugees, their battles to fight cultural practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation, and their desire to return and rebuild their homeland.
The speakers included activist Riya William Yuyada, athlete Pur Biel and teacher Mary Nyiriak Maker from South Sudan, Congolese filmmaker Amina Rwino, and Sudanese poet Emi Mahmoud.
Somali American Halima Aden, an international fashion model who has featured on the covers of magazines such as Vogue, was born in Kakuma refugee camp and lived there for seven years.
Ms Aden, 20, said despite sometimes not having enough food to eat or being sick with malaria, she enjoyed a happy childhood.
Kakuma helped her gain a sense of community and respect for other cultures, Ms Aden said.
She said she wanted to change the narrative of refugee camps as a place of despair.
“I want you to remember that although the children here are refugees, they are children,” Ms Aden told the event.
“They deserve every opportunity to flourish, to hope, to dream, to be successful,” she added. “My story began here in Kakuma refugee camp, a place of hope,” she said.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist