Helping to address gender inequality in Sudan
A success story from Mayo Displaced Camp, Khartoum State
Sudan’s civil war, now in its fourteenth year, has resulted in the largest internally displaced population the world has ever seen. Over four million people have been driven from their homes, destroying community structures and their way of life. An estimated 1.8 million of the country’s internal refugees are currently residing in four official displaced camps around the capital of Khartoum. Established in 1992, Mayo is one of these displaced camps. IRC has been implementing a development training program for men and women in Mayo since 1998 with the aim of empowering women in the displaced environment and establishing a more sustainable livelihood for them and their families.
The majority of Mayo’s residents live in simple housing constructed of mud, while others live in makeshift shelter made out of cardboard, sacks and plastic canvas.
The people in Mayo camp were once proud cattle owners. Their livelihood was mainly that of subsistence agriculture.
Men and women observed clearly defined roles, with the men as the heads of households, breadwinners and decision makers while the women were responsible for domestic tasks and child-rearing. In the camp environment, these traditional roles are being challenged as both men and women struggle to develop strategies for survival.
Unemployment in the camps is rampant and many residents have had little or no opportunity for schooling. They frequently risk imprisonment as they are forced to resort to petty crime, prostitution or the illegal brewing of alcohol as a means of subsistence. In the camp setting, it is women who are increasingly shouldering the burden of multiple roles in order to be able to support themselves and their families.
IRC’s development training program is designed to address some of these issues and in particular to meet the needs of the camp’s female population. The program is aimed at the socio-economic empowerment of 700 displaced women in Mayo and the neighboring Jebel displaced camps.
The development program has four main components - awareness-raising training in issues pertaining to women’s rights and well-being, literacy, skills training and self-help saving and credit training. The daily management of the program operates from 2 main centers in the camps. Those involved in the training also participate in its design, ensuring that it relates to their day-to-day reality. This participatory approach to program design and implementation is helping to empower women who previously would not have been involved in decision-making processes.