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The Other One Percent

Antoine Tardy | Kenya

Mireille, 34, from Burundi. Mother of four. Arrived in Kakuma in October 2015 and is enrolled in the French-language course on Ethics offered by the University of Geneva in InZone’s MOOC Learning Center. “One morning in June 2015, armed men came to our house in Bujumbura and arrested my husband, my cousin, and I. They accused us of organizing demonstrations against the regime. In prison, I was tortured and raped. My husband disappeared and I haven’t heard from him yet. My cousin was murdered. On this photo, you can see my ankle, which was broken by one of the policemen, using a metal bar. On the other one, you see Claude, the man who helped me escape, carrying me together with two other men. We fled to Rwanda, where my children and I were reunified. I finally got surgery in Nairobi, and, after five months, got transferred with my family to Kakuma. This experience left me traumatized. They broke my leg, yes, but it’s my heart that was wounded. I don’t keep these photos as evidence but as memories, to help me remember what happened and to remind me how much good or evil can be in someone.”

Worldwide, there are over 21.3 million refugees. Only 1% have access to higher education. 

This exhibition tells the stories of refugee students in Kenya who overcome all the bleak figures, odds, boundaries and labels to take control of their lives and achieve success on their own terms. These are the stories of individuals who do not let their unfavorable situations define who they are and who they want to become. These are stories of those who have the chance to unlock their potential, who are translating their hardships into motivation. Ultimately, these are stories of resilience and hope, of solidarity and determination, of self-realization in the face of adversity.

In the refugee world, certainty is a scarce commodity, and the future is largely unknown. For now, all these students know is that higher education sets them on a hopeful trajectory, and maximizes their chances to build a brighter future for themselves, their families, their communities and, ultimately, their countries. It is a stepping stone to becoming who they are. Everything else is beyond their control.

Commissioned by:
Education Unit
Division of International Protection

Photographs and texts by:
Antoine Tardy

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

Antoine Tardy

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