Meet Sabuni Françoise Chikunda

“I am a refugee myself but I also help my fellow refugee women to improve their lives.”

© UNHCR/Esther Ruth Mbabazi

Françoise lives in Nakivale, a large settlement in Southwest Uganda that hosts around 133,000 refugees from many countries, including Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Ethiopia.  

She has survived multiple experiences of violence and displacement, including the loss of her husband and four children. During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Françoise survived a brutal attack, and then, years later, she was kidnapped by armed militia in her native DRC, enduring violence, torture and rape.  

“I feel so good for healing my fellow refugees in these tough times. I have taught them to be independent and I am so proud.” 

“I went through a lot … I lost my home, my family, my job, everything,” she says. “I was raped several times. My husband and my four children were killed.” 

She managed to escape and find safety in Uganda, where she looked for ways to help others around her. She became a voluntary English teacher and started meeting with a small group of fellow survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in her home. The women shared their experiences and talked about how they could rebuild their lives. 

This work grew and in 2018, Françoise set up the Kabazana Women’s Centre which provides training for women in skills such as tailoring, cooking, handicrafts, hairdressing and agriculture. The centre has since helped more than 1000 women. 

“I am a refugee myself but I also help my fellow refugee women to improve their lives.”  

In 2020, Françoise was chosen as the regional winner for Africa for UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award, a prestigious annual prize that honours those who have gone to extraordinary lengths to support forcibly displaced or stateless people. 

“I feel so good for healing my fellow refugees in these tough times. I have taught them to be independent and I am so proud.” 

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