"We were blind in the past, but today we can see the future with both eyes." Deka, a graduate of an intensive culinary skills training program for refugees and Djiboutian nationals in Djibouti City, had been orphaned at a young age, and had limited means to support herself. Thanks to a program run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), hosted in conjunction with the Djiboutian government agency to assist refugees and disaster victims (ONARS) and funded by the support of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), she and others have new skills to open doors for gainful employment, leading to a more durable solution for these refugees in Djibouti and/or their countries of origin.
Djibouti currently hosts upwards of 23,000 refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and several other countries. Many refugees have only a basic level of education, and prospects for supporting themselves and families are slim. Thanks to the IOM program, now two hundred and thirty-five refugees and Djiboutian nationals are trained in food preparation, driving, fishing, computers, and other skills. Select graduates of the program were placed in internships with companies like Sheraton Hotels, and other Djibouti City businesses; employment outcomes have been strong.
PRM and U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff recently met with a business mentor for the program, and four of the trainees, all of whom were happy to share their experiences from the program and hopes for the future. Everyone agreed that this program gave the young participants a sense of hope. President and CEO of Africa Business Solutions (ABS), member of the Somali Diaspora, and mentor to trainees Abdulrahman Osman said the training program created "big hope" among the participants. Trainee Deka said, "I am optimistic because now I can succeed by myself."
Two of the trainees we met with were already working in jobs as a result of this program and the other two were hopeful that they would soon find employment. Hassan, a Djiboutian national, was putting his training in the fishing industry to good use, working with the Djiboutian Coast Guard. Nimadaher, a young Somali refugee born in Djibouti, told us "When I started the program I didn't even know how to open a computer." After completing her course and an internship, she is now working for ABS Logistics. A model student and employee, Nimadaher trains fellow ABS employees in some of the skills she learned on the course.
According to IOM Djibouti Director Romaric Nguessan, the partnership between IOM and the Djiboutian government, including close collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior, has been a key to the program’s success. He said that private companies have also been pleased to receive such well-trained employees. Collaboration and understanding has gone even further with the host government, allowing refugees to obtain local driving licenses, meaning more employment opportunities could come their way.
About the Author: Bindi Patel serves as a Regional Refugee Coordinator at Embassy Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.