Learning to communicate in English enhances inclusion of refugees


While she was at her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Shauriyao, aged 48, was gainfully employed at an Early Development Center where she worked as a caregiver. When conflict escalated, leading to the death of her husband, she fled into Uganda and was resettled in Kyaka II Sweswe Zone, Kyegegwa district where she has lived since August 2019 with her two daughters.   

To her surprise, Shauriyao could not get a job because she did not know the English language. “In this era of women’s rights, I knew I had the right to seek employment. With my skills in early childhood education, I was sure that I would secure a job at an Early Childhood Development Center in Uganda”.

“It’s not that I was illiterate. I could fluently read, write and speak in French, Swahili and Lingala but not English” she added. After job applications were turned down twice despite holding a diploma in early child hood education, Shauriyao wondered what the future held for her since the few schools in her community were for children and those who had never stepped in a classroom.

EFA Learner demonstrating her skills in writing different names. Photo credit: UN Women / Aidah Nanyonjo
EFA Learner demonstrating her skills in writing different names. Photo credit: UN Women / Aidah Nanyonjo

Through partnership with Refugee Law Project, UN Women Uganda with funding from the Government of Norway implements an English for Adults (EFA) Programme which aims at equipping refugees with English language literacy and leadership skills. In 2022, UN Women was able to start implementing the EFA programme in the refugee settlement where Shauriyao resides “When I heard the announcement that EFA classes were to begin in my community I was over joyed” said Shauriyao. She enrolled immediately and after completing level one, she gained some skills in speaking English. In January 2023, Shauriyao applied again when an opportunity arose at the same Early Childhood Development Center and this time, she got the job.

"I have been given a two-year contract renewable depending on funding” she says with a big smile. Her plan is to complete all the seven levels of the EFA Programme because “I know having this certificate will enable me get better employment opportunities including a leadership position on the Women’s Council.”

Shauriyao has now registered her two daughters to enroll in primary school within the settlement and is constantly practice speaking English with them so that she can sharpen her speech.