Monday, May 11, 2009

Oriel - African Refugee Doll

There are literally millions of refugees across Africa, many of whom are women and children, as the men are away fighting or killed in an effort to protect their villages.

Tribal disputes for power and land force whole villages away, with violence and killing the greatest threat.  Sexual violence against women is especially a concern were it is reported:

“Mass rape, often perpetrated by members of the Sudanese armed forces and affiliated militias, is endemic in the Darfur region of Sudan. Government officials deny that rape is an integral part of violence in Darfur and assert that Sudan aggressively punishes rape. In fact, rape victims suffer from an almost complete lack of access to justice, and the Government is more likely to take action against those who report and document rape than those who commit it.”  

Some of the countries with great numbers of refugees are Uganda, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Sudan and Congo.

Ethiopia, the oldest independent country in Africa, remains committed to offering asylum to refugees arriving on its territory from neighboring countries. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has hosted about 1 million refugees. Fortunately, over time most of them have been able to repatriate to their respective countries. At the present, Ethiopia is home to approximately 80,000 refugees, mostly from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, and Kenya. More than a quarter of the refugees, or about 23,500 individuals, are from Eritrea. Over 1,700 Eritrean refugees were registered in the first quarter of 2008.

An estimated 2 million of the more than 4 million people displaced by the north-south conflict have returned home. However, the scale of need in south Sudan is immense, and communities are very vulnerable to a new humanitarian crisis and outbreaks of further conflict if gaps in basic services go unaddressed.

Women Show Their Determination to Rebuild: These women were showing us bricks they made by hand, in an attempt to construct a center to receive new returnees.  There are many women’s groups showing great initiative and willing to support returnees, but they rarely receive the support they need.


My concept for the doll is a family, mother with children hanging off her and clinging to her, arrive at the refugee camp, where they may have to wait to be registered and assigned an area.  In the case of the UN refugee camps, they may also be given some basic supplies.

Having walked great distances, their feet are accentuated.

Their eyes are wide, holding the mystery of what they have seen, and heard and felt in their success in escaping and traveling to relative safety.  Some may give birth here, some may die here.

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