Claudine is 23 years old and lives in Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi with her husband and children. Regardless of the challenges she has faced herself growing up in refugee camps – she has shown incredible resilience and determination.

Claudine, Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi

Not only does Claudine do everything she can to support her own children, alongside her husband, but she also does a huge amount of work to empower other women and girls living in Dzaleka Refugee Camp too. Claudine is an inspiration to mothers and women around the world.

Our work would not be possible without incredible women and mothers driving forwards change – women like Claudine.

Claudine’s mother is from Rwanda, a small landlocked country in east-central Africa where, in the mid-1990s, an estimated 800,000 people were killed in a genocide. Claudine’s mother was able to flee to Tanzania, where Claudine was later born in a refugee camp. They then transferred to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in 1999, where Claudine has lived ever since. Claudine is one of around 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers living in Dzaleka, many who stay there for years or even decades. The conditions in the camp are very challenging, especially for women – who often haven’t had a chance of going to school. In Claudine’s own words:

Life was very difficult [growing up here] since we had only my mother, [she] was the only one supporting us. We had many challenges. The problems my mother was facing also created challenges to our education. It meant that between my siblings and me, some of us continued studying but some felt like giving up or weren’t able to finish, [with] no chance to learn because of the difficulties my mother was facing.

But as myself, I had a chance. Although I became pregnant in form two, when I was 17, but somehow I still continued my education until I graduated, with my daughter. I continued because I was not shy to go back to school because I know that that is where the future is. I really valued my education.

Claudine became a literacy facilitator for our local partner organisation, AFECOPAD, a small charity set up and run by refugees in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. She taught literacy skills and English, also helping to raise awareness of women’s rights in the camp. She also counselled women and girls, being able to understand their hardships. She said:

Through the situations that I have passed through, I know the many situations of the other women here. I do counsel some of the girls and women because they trust me since I keep their secrets safe.

Claudine’s commitment and hard work with AFECOPAD resulted in her becoming their Executive Secretary, a role she enjoys and which enables her to help deliver the projects, for example our projects which deliver vocational and literacy skills training to refugee women and adolescent girls who experience unimaginable hardships.

One of the women taking part in a previous Feed the Minds project in Dzaleka Refugee Camp

When we asked Claudine what inspired her to help mothers, women and girls, she said:

Women face many issues here. Mostly women didn’t even have a chance to [go to school] and learn in their local countries, so it is very hard, and they face poverty. Also, many women are not aware of their rights. And, people have experienced trauma in the camp. So, there are many challenges. And even early marriages, early pregnancies or women having to exchange their bodies in order to earn an income – it is very difficult.

There is also the challenge of food distribution – now we are receiving half rations so that’s also affecting women’s lives, especially mothers. Even the health situation is not good because sometimes you go to the hospital with a sick child or yourself you are sick, but they say that there is no medicine, maybe only Panadol, and there’s not any other help they can give you. People are dying because of lack of medicine.

I felt inspired to help other women because of the way I was raised up with my mother. My mother is also a strong woman who always helps others.

She is a farmer [my mother]. She always participates in different businesses, so I was adapted to her culture. Even by seeing the problems that she always passed through, it made me aware that other women are passing the same problems. So, as myself, I like being with other women, sharing ideas, counselling them. That’s how I am, so I am always happy to help other women so they cannot be discriminated against. I must do anything I can do in order to help other women.

The mothers here have impressed me: although they are struggling to adjust to a new life, they still have hope, enthusiasm, and a sense of solidarity. They are supporting each other, they are open-minded and they are willing to learn new things for a better future. They never give up, they stand up on praying and believing in their strengths, talents and community assets. They also enjoy participating in community projects, building connections and sharing life experiences they faced in their local countries.

Claudine, sitting at her desk in AFECOPAD’s office

What gives me strength is my focus to help other women, so I cannot give up because of other challenges. I must fight them [the challenges]. Because our aim as AFECOPAD is to fight against poverty of women and girls. My aim is to fight that poverty. Although I am small I’m sure I can achieve something! I can change someone’s life.

For the future, as myself I want AFECOPAD to become a big company. Like supporting women and girls and to change others’ lives. Not only in Malawi but in the different nations to fight poverty everywhere. Because the poverty is everywhere. So that is my future. That is what I need.


This blog was published for Mother’s Day 2020 by Feed the Minds