Fund Links Women to Skills and Income Opportunities

Port Sudan, Red See State, the women of the Diem Arab Centre in downtown Port Sudan have traditionally suffered from absence of viable economic options and welcome income-generating opportunities to earn money for their families. The members greatly appreciated the eight bakery ovens and eight sewing machines received from UNDP in late 2010 that have provided a new lease on life to the women’s centre. “Though the centre was functioning years before” Amna, the centre head explained, “our machines fell into disrepair and we had little left to keep activities going. The new equipment has reactivated the working groups and there are more than 30 families engaged in making biscuits and baked goods that they sell at neighborhood shops”.

UNDP provided support through the Local Development Fund (LDF) of its Poverty Alleviation-Oriented Governance Programme. The programme aims to strengthen the capacity of localities to deliver services and thereby reduce poverty. Financial support was allocated to the Local Development Fund (LDF) through which staff members of the locality Planning and Information Units (PIUs) received training in budgeting and project management. Following this the PIUs were provided a budget to identify and support projects benefitting vulnerable groups in their locality. Income-generating activities at two women’s centers and support to a local health unit were among the projects selected.

At the Diem Arab Centre women are also making clothes and school uniforms, Amna said. They provide uniforms free to those in absolute need or sell them at a discounted or full price according to the purchasing capacity of the community. During a recent visit by the Port Sudan Locality Commissioner, the women expressed their need for a market distribution point to help widen their customer base and give them more independence.

The women work in groups of 6 to 7 members, generally twice a week working on bakery and sewing activities. The lack of electricity at the Centre means that women can work for only limited hours.

At the Um Elgora Women’s Centre on the outskirts of Port Sudan, the fledging enterprise is just getting started. Most of the members have been internally displaced by local drought or war in Darfur and South Sudan and suffer from abject poverty. In addition they lack skills and livelihood opportunities to improve their situation. UNDP support to the Centre through training, sewing machines and ovens has increased the women’s production output. They hope to strengthen their Centre through further support and also would like to open a place in the market to sell their goods.

In addition to helping the less fortunate in the ten localities, lessons learned from the Local Development Fund project will help the Red Sea State Government draw up policies on decentralization and strengthen local government.

Aziza Abdalla, UNDP’s National Capacity Development Officer in Red Sea State, concluded, “It is good to see that the local authorities and communities are addressing poverty issues through the LDF initiative and that the Poverty Alleviation-Oriented Governance Programme goals and targets are being realized. Moreover, it is a credit to the programme to work among women in eastern Sudan, where they are relatively more secluded and their participation in outdoor activities is limited, and also to succeed in making a positive impact.”

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