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#IWillSupportMyself: Sudan's uneducated single mothers get a second chance

Many women had to drop out of school for marriage or other reasons [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2016

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"I will support myself" is an initiative to help Sudan's uneducated widows and single mothers to resume their studies in order to have better job prospects.

An inspiring initiative aims to help Sudan's uneducated widows and single mothers return to school in order to find better opportunities to support themselves and their families.

"I will support myself" was launched by human development professor Afaf Ibrahim to help women who had dropped out of school for marriage or other reasons to resume their studies in order to have better chances in the job market.

The idea began when Ibrahim noticed widows resorting to NGOs or working as street vendors for limited income, she said.

"Education empowers people," she told The New Arab.

"It enables them to be independent and support their children without asking for assistance from anyone."

The idea was initially popular, with more than 120 women registering to resume their education. However, many of them had to drop out later due to difficult circumstances.

Hadya

After her husband's death, 40-year-old Hadya found herself responsible for supporting three children. She had to move back to her parent's house, as she could no longer afford rent.

Hadya sold clothes and other items in the street to earn a living and support her children.

Before she turned 15 years old, she had her first child, as early marriage was traditional in her tribe.

She was forced to drop out of school, to which she kept dreaming of going back, and her dream came true with Ibrahim’s initiative.

Despite the challenges, and having to work on the side, Hadya managed to go to Ibrahim's classes. She was one of many women who passed the high school diploma exam last year and went to college.

She says that even if she failed to find a job after graduation, at least she would be certain her children would be proud of her.

Funding

Besides facing criticism for demanding education for widows in a highly conservative society, Ibrahim faced funding challenges.

The cost of educating one woman per year is an estimated 3,000 Sudanese Pounds ($450), which she cannot afford on the long run.

Some NGOs showed interest at first, she said, but their enthusiasm for the project gradually disappeared. The education ministry also failed to provide funding for the initiative.

This left Ibrahim with no choice but to fund the initiative from her own money.

She covered the learning expenses and hired teachers who had faced difficulties finding a job after graduation. Some of them volunteered, while others accepted low wages. Ibrahim also took part in teaching and organising motivational courses.

For further encouragement, she provided breakfast meals for the women and offered them free transportation.

To save on expenses, Ibrahim used her husband's car to transport the women back and forth between their homes and the learning centres.

Despite the success, albeit limited, Ibrahim fears she may not be able to continue with the programme due to lack of funding.

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