Honorine Essibeda (76) is recieving support from NRC to rebuild her home in Begoua. She is helping with the bricks. 

”When the house is finsihed, I will be very happy. It will be good to return home,” says Essibeda Honorine (76) from the Central African Republic. 

”I used to live here. I fled to a displacement site outside Bangui during the crisis in 2013-2014, when armed men took over the area. I was afraid to get killed.

My house was destroyed during the crisis. I lost everything when we fled. It was all burned and stolen.

I live with one of my daughters now. But every day I am walking over here. My housband is dead, so it is me who need to make all the brics for the new house. When the brics are done, the Norwegian Refugee Council will help me with the roof and everything else. 

When the new house is finished, I will live here with five grandchildren. Their father is dead as well. All the men in our family are dead. 

When I see my grandchildren, I think of their parents, my own children.  And I feel sick for not be able to take properly care of them. 

When the house is finished, I want to restart my palm oil business. Then I can inscribe my grandchildren at school, and get some clothes for them and something to eat. 
It is difficult for me now, to get the necessary food for the children. "

One thing people should know about the conflict in CAR:

"The world must know about and remember the vulnerable people in the Central African Republic who have nothing, and who have to run to the bush with their kids when the conflict escalates. And they should help restore peace. "   

When Central African Republic was struck by violent conflicts in 2013/2014, people from Begoua at the outskirts of Bangui fled their homes and found safety at displacement sites close by. Many saw their homes being occupied by armed groups, looted and burned. Now, many of the families from Begoua have returned home. The Norwegian Refugee Council is helping families rebuild or rehabilitate their houses and is also helping establish who owns the different plots, and provide people with a paper proving their property rights. The project is supported by UNHCR.
Photo: Norwegian Refugee Council/Tiril Skarstein
Read caption Honorine Essibeda (76) is recieving support from NRC to rebuild her home in Begoua in the Central African Republic. ”When the house is finished, I will be very happy. It will be good to return home,” she says. Photo: Tiril Skarstein/NRC

Defying gender stereotypes in construction

Ingrid Beauquis|Published 10. Jan 2018
Despite stereotypes, women participate in house reconstruction in Begoua.

When the Central African Republic’s (CAR) government closed all the camps for displaced people sites in its capital Bangui, many people were left without a home.

The camps residents had no choice but to return to their areas of origin, only to find that their homes had burned to the ground or been damaged during the violent conflict that has plagued CAR since 2013.

Clashes between the mostly Christian and animist group known as anti-balaka and the predominantly Muslim groups known as the ex-Seleka have forced over a million people to flee their homes. During the last year, fighting has escalated in the north and the east of the country, and spread to new areas.

Thousands of people living in the capital became internally displaced and sought refuge in camps. But in 2016, the government declared that it was safe for people to return to their homes, and closed all the camps as a result.

Rebuilding their own houses

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), with funding from the UN refugee agency, supports home reconstruction in Begoua, a city just north of Bangui.

The project requires the whole community to engage and participate by providing the bricks for construction. A special committee makes bricks for the most vulnerable households.

This type of work is normally done by men. So despite the stereotypes, women have decided to break with tradition and make their own bricks.

Judith is one of thousands of people who have fled from clashes between armed groups in the last year. She has made 500 bricks, which she has piled next to her house until the building starts.

“I am proud I could have been a model for women in my district who think brick making is only a man’s business,” she says.

When asked what other women may think of her, she pauses before concluding with pride: “Everywhere I go, people see a woman capable of doing the same things a man can do.”

Women are active participants

Helene, a 52-year-old mother of five, is making bricks in Zacko 2 district. Most of the work involves extracting clay from the soil and fetching water. The fabrication process takes up to two days.

“I start by digging the soil,” she explains. “Then I mix it with water and let it dry one day before putting it into a mould to create the bricks.”

Nineteen out of the 50 households in the project are headed by women. Six of them are participating in building their own houses in a country where manual labour is viewed as a man’s job.

“Supporting returnees to have access to their house and secure their right of property is a crucial step towards social cohesion and stability,” says Eric Batonon, NRC’s country director in CAR.

NRC’s work in the Central African Republic
  • NRC has been assisting displaced people in Bangui and the prefectures of Kemo, Mambéré-Kadéi and Bamingui-Bangoran since 2014.
  • During the 2013 crisis, these areas were severely impacted by violence and mass displacement of people. As of October 2017, there were 85,431 internally displaced people in Bangui, 24,727 in Mambéré Kadéi, 4,276 in Kemo and 6,437 in Bamingui-Bangoran.
  • In 2017, stability convinced many displaced people to return home. But people often find their house occupied or that it was sold illegally during their displacement.
  • Many lack or have lost their ownership documentation and struggle to prove that they are the rightful owners.
  • Our information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) teams help displaced people to claim their property rights and civil documents when they return home.
  • We also provide education, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, and food security for internally displaced people, returnees, and host communities in CAR.

 

  • Read more about our work in CAR here.