The refugee crisis in Uganda’s Kyangwali Refugee Settlement isn’t new. For the people of this camp, being a refugee is a protracted circumstance endured for decades. “Sauti” (“Voice” in Swahili) follows the efforts of five young women who were brought to the Settlement as children and who, as they approach adulthood, strive to pursue their dreams for a future beyond the constraints of a protracted refugee situation in an underdeveloped host country. Though safer than they were before, little else has changed since fleeing war and persecution years ago in their home countries of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. Transcending the label ‘refugee’ has been especially challenging for the women of Kyangwali.
Over the course of several years, “Sauti” follows the young women on their personal journeys past early marriage, subsistence farming, subordination to male relatives, and the crisis of having generation after generation of refugees born into a life of exile and lack of possibility. The film witnesses their struggle to stay in secondary school, pass the country’s national exams, and avoid dangerous tropical diseases. They navigate the tension between pursuing a life beyond the fences of the settlement and remaining tied to the community to support their families. The young women become storytellers in their own right through drawings, poems, and video self-documentation. In doing so, they intimately explore the trauma of their pasts, their dreams of transcending the fates of their parents, and what it takes to be in charge of their own futures.