Brownkey Abdullahi is a female refugee, blogger, and activist from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. Brownkey campaigns against female genital mutilation and gender-based violence, and advocates on behalf of the entire refugee community. Read more about Browenkey’s story, her foundation, and how she is working to empower refugees.
Dadaab refugee camp was established in 1991 after civil war broke out in Somalia. When lawlessness engulfed many countries neighboring Kenya. There was a massive flow of refugees to Kenya. As result, many people fled to Kenya from those countries for safety.
People fleeing and filling the camp were mainly children and women emaciated and looked desperate. Many footed for days, weeks and even months to reach Dadaab camps. They traveled long distances taking dangerous routes only to reach safe places. Some of the refugees have been brutally tortured on the way and traumatized. My parents were among those who took dangerous routes to Dadaab camps.
My parents told me in early 1991 Dadaab refugee was a remote and dusty place with no social amenities at all; there was no water for survival, no food, no health centre and no sanitation facilities in place. In addition, there was widespread insecurity in the camps due to some combats making to the camps with their rifles. Rape was rampant in the camp in those days.
Refugees were put in the camps and moved to other parts of Kenya has been restricted, a policy that is still in place crippled the refugees in all aspects.
I was born in this era of desperateness In Dagahaley camp in block E4 in early 1993 when the suffering of the refugees was at its peak. I have gone through tough life during my childhood in Dadaab camps. At times I had to go to school with an empty stomach and come back home in the evening just take water and little porridge. But my parents have played a pivotal role to make sure I go to school under whatever condition and they have been optimistic about the future.
Girls, in particular, have been facing discrimination from the patriarchal society and giving girls an opportunity was seen as a waste. Therefore I was in a tough battle with men while in school or after school. The girls have been subjected to retrogressive cultural practices such female genital mutilation, early marriages and forced marriages. These cultural practices have contributed to the setback of women in Dadaab camps. However, these challenges never deterred me from my vision and at the back of my mind, I believed in education as the only tool that would change my community. On realizing the impacts of these practices on women I felt obliged by the human spirit in me to start advocating for the right of women and get prepared to take challenges in this course to liberate women. Before fully embarking on advocacy campaign I worked with several organizations in the camp to understand well the nature of challenges women go through in Dadaab and Somali context.
In the beginning, I started forming women advocacy groups against the menace of female genital mutilation. I took my campaign to the grass root level and sit with circumciser and mothers whose girls are the victims of the peril. This is a unique method of campaigning, where the perpetrators are involved in the campaign and make them feel the magnitude of the destruction they are causing to women. I even organized session between the perpetrators and their victims. Then to expand the campaign beyond Dadaab I become a blogger to create a platform for my campaign and gather more support and bring more influential people on board.
This exertion drove me to establish a foundation by the name Brownkey foundation. The name of the foundation was instituted from my epithet. I framed this foundation to help the powerless individuals in Dadaab camps and outside Dadaab camps. The main areas my foundation focuses on include: Children’s rights, culture, education and the Environment.