Awadiya Mahmoud Kuku is a women leader standing for the voices of thousands of women across Sudan. She recently received the U.S. State Department 10th Annual International Women of Courage Award, for her activism in the field of women rights since early 1990s.
Awadiya, who herself is a tea seller from Khartoum, is part of a collective of women, who on a grassroots level established a cooperative union for those whose income is generated through selling of tea and food on roadsides or are engaging in informal labor in and around greater Khartoum. The cooperative union aims at supporting and improving women’s livelihoods as well as challenging the chronic patterns of mistreatment of women in the informal sector. (See picture above: The leading committee members of the Khartoum Women Multipurpose Cooperative Union)
SIHA wishes that this award will lead towards more recognition and respect for the struggle of marginalized women breadwinners across the country and proudly supports the honoring of Awadiya as she symbolizes the fight of many women struggle against women’s subjugation in a male-dominated society, which has been enforced by fluid political system, discriminatory laws, armed conflicts, unjust and short sighted economic policies all combined leading to large scale internal displacement. Awadiya is further part of a growing women’s movement in today’s Sudan, fighting and challenging the unjust treatment of poor women in the informal sector.
SIHA has been successfully supporting, enabling and promoting the social and economic rights of women in the informal sector for the past seven years working with tea and food sellers, domestic workers, petty traders and women working to earn a living by adopting various forms of marginal laborious. SIHA has supported the formation of the Women’s Cooperatives Multi-Purpose Union, which organizes and encompasses a broad base of poor women who finally found their voice through this body that advocates for their interests and their human rights. Hundreds of women were able to organize themselves in cooperatives so they can live with dignity advocate for their rights and protect themselves, improve their skills to compete better in the markets and increase their profits, manage small loans to expand their businesses and acquire gender awareness and advocates against discriminatory laws. Additionally trainings were held, which focused on acquisition of legal awareness to challenge the discriminatory most significantly, the daily kasha (sweeps or on-spot raids) carried out by the Public Order Police where women are chased down, legally persecuted, fined and often flogged and then victimized further in the confiscation of their products and utensils.
SIHA in 2015 produced a short film, on the struggle, challenges and the success of the women’s cooperatives. Even though the film will not do justice to the struggles of women in the informal sector, but is an attempt to give voice to the women in the cooperatives and afford them the opportunity to tell their stories, speak about their hopes and aspirations as well as about the successes they experience collectively.
The documentary, entitled “Invisible Labourers” can be viewed here.