YUMBE – The European Union on 7th November 2023 held an art exhibition in Yumbe District, the culmination of a campaign called the “EU Youth Art Competition in West Nile”. The campaign, launched during the 2023 World Refugee Day celebrations, sought to provide a platform for youth in refugee-hosting districts of West Nile to express their creativity through art. The campaign was jointly executed by Faces Up, a non-profit organization empowering youth through art.
The campaign engaged 682 young people between the ages of 8 and 21 from three districts across West Nile. Art experts took the young artists through guided sessions to create art along specific themes including empowerment and self-reliance, environmental protection, governance and leadership, and access to justice and protection for peaceful and prosperous communities.
“We are passionate about empowering young people to become active citizens in their communities”, said Roisin Carols, the European Union Trust Fund Programme Officer who at the event represented EU Ambassador Jan Sadek.
“This platform enabled us to provide a safe space to nurture and support the growth of artistic talent among the youth, especially those in refugee and host communities. We strongly believe in the power of art as a platform to give a voice to young people to express their creativity.”
The support of the European Union to the Government of Uganda is crucial to providing life-saving humanitarian and longer-term development assistance to refugees and host communities in Uganda. Since 2016, the European Union has committed over €400 million in development and humanitarian assistance to the national refugee response, working with the Government in a number of sectors benefitting both refugees and host communities.
According to UNHCR data, Uganda currently hosts over 1.5 million refugees, the majority of whom are children, with youths representing 65% of the South Sudanese and 55% of the Congolese refugee populations.
“Young people are disproportionately affected by the refugee crisis, exposing them to various risks. Providing safe spaces where they can refine their artistic skills and also express themselves allows them to channel their energy and creativity,” she stated.
Among others, children and youth in refugee and host communities face various challenges including compromised mental health and the threat of lost childhood, lack of access to quality education and services, as well as shifting family dynamics and responsibilities.
The focus of initiatives funded by the European Union in refugee hosting districts addresses a wide spectrum of sectors. This includes support to skilling and livelihoods to promote income-generating activities and equip refugees and their host communities with the tools that they need to build resilience. Additionally, support for services strengthens local governance and access to education, water, hygiene, and sanitation. The European Union also has targeted intervention to combat increased environmental and ecosystem degradation and accelerate access to justice and protection for vulnerable groups.
During the event, an exhibition displayed the artwork of the top 45 entrants and artists were awarded certificates of participation from the EU together with art supplies for their personal use. Following the West Nile event, the EU will also showcase the art in an exhibition in Kampala in December.