Self help groups and refugees

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Every continent is susceptible to the problem of mass displacement, either within or across country borders worldwide. The number of affected people vary over time, due to newly arising conflicts, repatriation movements and new conflicts in protracted conflict areas, such as Africa’s Great Lakes region and South-West Asia. By running away from their homes, family and community life is often disrupted and the affected people are cut off from usual resources, placing them in vulnerable situations.

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This experience mostly affects specific groups that are already vulnerable, including children and adolescents, people living with disabilities, the elderly, widows, female headed households and women (Bruijin, 2009).

Ghazal (2005) argues that displacement results not only in the loss and destruction of land, sources of livelihood, and personal belongings, but the refugees’ lives and their social fabric are left in complete disarray. Families face extreme poverty and hardship, often for the first time. According to UNHCR (2009) refugees in urban areas encounter many challenges in comparison with other poor city-dwellers. Beside protection problems that confront them, they often lack the community support systems that help poor nationals to survive.

According to the Refugee Convention of 1951, a refugee is a person unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group, or political opinion (UNHCR, 2010). However, due to specific aspects of refugee problems in Africa, Organization of Africa Unity (A precursor to the African Union) adopted a Convention (1969, p.1) which defines a refugee as:

a person who, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Today, there are 22.5 million refugees in the world with 30% being hosted in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya, there are 466,134of which 48% are female and 52% male. In terms of nationality distribution, 54.6% are from Somalia, 24.4% from Southern Sudan, and 8% from Democratic Republic of Congo. Then 6.7% are Ethiopians, 2.8% and 2.7% are from Burundi and Sudan respectively while 0.8%% are from Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda and other nations. UNHCR has clustered Kenyan refugee statistics into three: Nairobi, Kakuma and Dadaab. In terms of location, 185,624 representing 40% are in Kakuma Camp, 207,622 (44.5%) refugees are in Dadaab Camp, 68,743 representing 14.7% are in urban areas, mainly Nairobi while 4,145 ( 0.8% are in Moyale (UNHCR, 2018).

Kenya has been providing protection and lifesaving assistance to refugees since the 1960s and employs encampment policy, which was re-emphasized through the enactment of Refugee Act 2006. However, refugees are supposed to live in Kakuma, and Dadaab Camps or Alinjugur Camp, but many of them choose to leave the camps for urban areas like Nairobi. In the beginning of May 2016, the government of Kenya gave a directive to close Dadaab Camp by the end of the year, citing insecurity reasons. This move was opposed at the national and international levels, and recently a court declared such an order illegal, though the government has vowed to appeal. However, of recent, there has been conflict between the host community in Dadaab and UNHCR over the sacking of employees from the host community and destruction of the environment by the refugees in Dadaab camp. Despite this, voluntary repatriation has been carried out with a total of 34, 176 Somalis having been repatriated back to Somali (UNHCR, 2018). This is a small dent in the whole question of the well-being of the refugees, most of whom do not want or cannot go back to their countries of origin. Women, in particular, have resorted to forming self-help groups that can alleviate their double suffering, both as refugees and as women.

1.1.1 Well-being

According to Smith & Patricia (2010) well-being is a concept common to psychology, economics, sociology, anthropology and other social sciences. It is often tied to financial status, yet well-being is broader than economic or material well-being alone. Rashid & Zia (2013) argue that the concept of well-being has profound roots in philosophy. In the 19th century modern definitions of well-being were coined with utilitarian movement defining well-being subjectively and asserted that individuals’ well-being is an important goal of individuals’ behaviour and the public. Dodge et al (2012) say that the question of how well-being should be defined remains largely unresolved, which has resulted to overly broad definitions of the same.

Felce and Perry (1995) define well-being as comprising of objective descriptors and subjective evaluations of material, physical, social and emotional well-being, together with the extent of personal development and purposeful activity, all weighted by a set of values. Huppert et al (2004) view well-being as a positive and sustainable state that allows individuals, groups or nations to flourish. This means that at the level of an individual well-being denotes physical, psychological, and social states that are particularly positive.

McGregor (2007) brings out a social definition of well-being which argues against a focus on ‘the individual’ and thus requires an understanding of interdependence of the person and their society. Thus, this definition neither equates well-being to happiness nor to wealth but focuses on well-being as ensuing from the interplay of needs metfreedoms to act and satisfactions in achieving goals. He further argues that well-being should be viewed as a positive state of being with others in society, where one can act effectively and meaningfully to pursue ones’ goals, where needs are met, and where one is able to experience happiness and feel satisfied with one’s life. This is the definition which will be adapted in this study to establish the positive state of refugee women emanating from their participation in self-help groups.

Abbott (2002) has argued that to understand well-being, it is important to study material and non-material conditions of life. Material well-being refers to the physical support to life, to the achievements that make attainment of physical attributes possible, such as education, economic power, good health among others. Non-material wellbeing refers to the psychological dimension of living, satisfactions, happiness, and enjoyment among others. However, Abbott puts a caveat and further argues that material well-being does not always bring about non-material satisfactions.

Well-being is increasingly recognized as an important component for long-run economic development, which is seen as the most vital goal of modern nation-states. Sen (1999) argues that well-being is important in development, given that economic growth has little value unless it is transformed into real life tangibles like falling child mortality rate and greater life expectancies. Well-being indicators are also used to measure progress towards various benchmarks or goals set by the international community. Some of these goals include: ‘Education for All’, ‘Health for All’, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the recently launched Sustainable Development Goals. These goals encompass the attainment of various wellbeing or targets, like achieving universal primary education and universal access to health care (McGillivray, 2005).

1.1.2 Wellbeing and poverty

The Millennium Declaration acknowledged that the biggest ongoing challenge for global development is the continued existence of chronic and incapacitating poverty. Consequently, poverty reduction has been a global priority but a focus on absolute income measures of poverty depicts the true picture to understand the complexity of poverty. Assessing poverty in terms of the proxies of income and/or consumption do not necessarily capture either the array of different outcomes that poverty exhibits or give insight into the interplay of social, economic, and political processes that generate poverty and vulnerability. Thus, poverty cannot be adequately explained in terms of income alone because insecurity, fear, depression, dependency, anxiety, hopelessness are all aspects that affect the decisions made by the poor people (2013 OECD).

According to the World Bank (2000) poverty is a pronounced deprivation in well-being. One approach of well-being regarding measure of deprivation is the command over commodities, such that people are better off if they have a greater command over resources. Poverty is then measured by comparing individuals’ income or consumption with some well-defined threshold below which they are categorized to be poor. A second approach to well-being is checking whether people can get a specific type of consumption goodfood, shelter, health care or education. This goes beyond the mere traditional monetary measures of poverty. However, one of the broadest approach to well-being is articulated by Amartya Sen (1997), who argues that well-being comes from a capability to function in society. Thus, poverty sets in when people lack key capabilities, leading to inadequate income or education, insecurity, poor health, a sense of powerlessness, low self-confidence, or the lack of rights such as freedom of speech.

1.1.3 Refugee Well-being

Refugees, who are settled either in camps or outside the camps, are the principal population in the mandate of UNHCR, for whom the agency safeguard the rights and well-being through offering protection and assistance. In 2006, UNHCR launched revised guidelines on the ‘Standards and Indicators Initiative’ which defined a set of quantifiable standards and indicators for its protection and assistance activities to assess and compare the well-being of the population of concern. The guideline breaks down the standard indicators into themes and sub-themes, highlighting three themes for urban refugees. These are: protection, self-reliance, assistance and community services and lastly durable solutions. For the first theme, five sub-thematic issues are identified as follows: physical protection, Sexual and Gender Based violence and children while health, HIV & AIDS, women, self-reliance and income generation and education have been identified for the second thematic area respectively (UHNCR, 2006).

The sub-themes are in line with Gallardo’s (2009) observations on the Human Development index. According to Gallardo, the first Human Development Report published in 1990, was regarded as a process of broadening people’s choices and improving their capabilities. Thus, the process is about creating an enabling environment in which people can develop and realise their full potential and live productive and creative lives in relation to their needs, interests and values. Thus, human development approach promotes well-being in a society with the emphasis on three basic levels of development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. This is what all refugees look forward to in the country of asylum since without achieving it, even the other dimensions of life such as political freedom and the ability to participate in host community remain inaccessible. Further, the sub-themes are supported by a study by Jacobson (2006) and Grelyling (2015) which shows that in South Africa, the factors that have influence on the well-being of refugees and asylum seekers are the ability to access protection, economic and social rights.

Socio-economic well-being considers both the economic status or material conditions and quality of life for people. According to OECD (2013, p. 21), the current well-being is measured in terms of outcomes achieved in the two main areas of material living conditions (in this study this include; income) and quality of life (health status and skills).

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