"The programme aims at helping refugee women become self-sufficient and be able to provide for their families," Ali Mahamat, the UNHCR assistant programme officer, told IRIN on Tuesday.
Of the 50 who are being trained in professional skills in Bangui's Haute Ecole de Gestion et de Comptabilite, 15 are being trained in management and accountancy, 15 in computer science, 10 in finance and banking and 10 in marketing. They began their courses on Monday that will last two years, after which they will be awarded certificates.
The 550 others will be given funds and equipment for income-generating activities. UNHCR said 150 are Sudanese and live in a refugee camp in Mboki, 1,300 km east of the capital, Bangui, while the other 400 are Congolese and live in Molange, 120 km west of Bangui.
Mahamat said the women in Molange had formed cooperatives, including one that hoped to establish a cinema and another to sell fresh fish; the latter group would be given a deep freeze. The Sudanese in Mboki, who have been in the CAR since 1990, would be given seeds and other farming materials, he said.
UNHCR had also ordered two computers for a group of refugee women who had completed their training in computer science. "We will support them for six months, the time for them to settle down and start producing," Ahmed Baba Fall, a programme officer with UNHCR, told IRIN on Tuesday.
The whole programme is expected to cost US $80,000. The CAR hosts about 50,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad, Burundi and Rwanda. About 50 percent of them are female.
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