KAMPALA: SIHA is proud to launch its short documentary film named “Invisible Laborers” today, on the 6th of August 2015. The film is a result of a four-year long project in Sudan working with women working in the informal sector, inlcuding but not limited to tea and food sellers, domestic workers, petty traders, street vendors, crafts makers and other “invisible labourers”.
The project trained hundreds of women on organizing themselves in cooperatives, so they can better advocate for their rights and protect themselves, improve their skills to compete better in the markets and increase their profits and manage small loans to expand their businesses. Additionally the trainings focused on acquisition of legal awareness to challenge the discriminatory laws and the violations and abuse they face at the hands of the authorities, most prominently, the daily kasha (sweeps or on-spot raids) carried out by the police where women are chased down, have their utensils and products confiscated and are sentenced to hefty fines after spending at least one night in prison. SIHA has documented cases of at least 40 women, working in the informal sector, being imprisoned at Omdurman Women’s Prison, where dozens of women find themselves, collectively facing charges under the Criminal Act /the Khartoum State Public Order Act.
SIHA formed six cooperatives in peripheral areas in Khartoum state including Dar Al-Salam, Al-Fateh and Mayo and further assisted in expanding the capacity of existing cooperatives, most prominently the tea and food seller’s cooperatives, which have been in place since in Souq Al-Shabi and were formed in Khartoum in 1991.
Recent decades saw a rapid destruction of subsistence farming and pastoralists’ livelihoods in Sudan, caused by ongoing political instability, unjust and short-sighted economic policies as well as conflicts that are widespread in Sudan. In combination, those factors and the large scale displacement have severely impacted the economic impoverishment and marginalization; with no life-changing development projects or international aid in sight, women saw Khartoum state as a destination for better livelihoods. It reflects the socio-economic and political reality of Sudan,having a formal economy with scarce opportunities and available for access to those with social networks, skills and resources.
One of SIHA’s focus areas is the supporting and enabling of economic empowerment of women. Therefore after two years of hard work and capacity-building, the cooperatives, supported by SIHA, formed the Women’s Cooperatives Multi-Purpose Union, which is the first body that organizes women in the informal sector. The union encompasses thousands of members, who finally found their voice through this body that advocates for their rights.
The film will not do justice to the struggles of women in the marginal sector, but is an attempt by SIHA to give the women who are in the cooperatives an opportunity to tell their stories, share the successes they’ve made since joining the cooperatives and speak about their hopes and aspirations as they try to creatively navigate daily existence in Khartoum by selling peanut butter on the side of roads to using locally-made beads to create intricate jewelry.
SIHA would like to dedicate this film to all women working in the informal sector for their dedication and perseverance in coming together to form this union and in working very hard and expressing strong stances to sustain their livelihoods in difficult circumstances.
Find the whole documentary “Invisible Labourers” here.