Changing their future, one basket at a time

UNDP helps empower women prisoners in Eastern Sudan

WomenPrisonersEager to learn new life skills, the women experiment with different designs and products.

Partnering with civil society organizations and the private sector to promote and empower the socio/economic status of women in Sudan through capacity development and advocacy has been one of the pillars of UNDP’s work in Sudan.

Cognizant of the need to establish self-sufficient, communities based on economic equality and improved  livelihoods for women ,  UNDP together with Zenab- a local NGO based in Gedarif  and Fandora Sudan-  a Khartoum-based business organization -  organized a  five day training workshop on  22nd February 2015 targeting women prisoners in Gedarif , East Sudan.

The workshop was held in the context of UNDP project “Access to Justice and Confidence Building in Eastern Sudan”, with the objective of using recycled paper to form baskets by women in Gadarif prison.
Fandora Sudan, a Khartoum-based business organization focusing on the use of recycled materials conducted the training.
Maisson Matar, founder and CEO of Fandora explains the rationale  of the workshop:
“Handicrafts have proven to be a promising solution for many issues in the lives of women in prison. Recycled baskets out of newspaper are easy to make. The newspaper material is available for free. This means there is more profit. We have received a lot of feedback from prison managers about the women’s progress and behavior after they have started with handicrafts. They have become less violent toward each other, and also they are not as depressed as before since they are always busy with their handicrafts. Many of those women started to produce items to sell them for income generation. Our work here is part of our Social Corporate Responsibility. We try to assist with the marketing of these handicrafts but we gain no profit.”

“Marketing is definitely a key issue. We are trying to make the products more interesting to consumers by marketing them under the brand name “Jailbird” and identifying the products and the concepts behind them by name. For example, the standard basket we make is called “Bird’s Nest”, Ms. Matar explains.
(link to interview with Maisson)

Tarig Mohamed, programme manager for Zenab NGO, also believes that the women in prison can benefit from income-generating activities. “We have tried to introduce different types of activities for the women so that there would be a choice of different options. The big challenge is marketing. Even if you produce the most beautiful and useful items they will not generate income unless you get someone to buy them.”
But seriously, can these baskets change the lives of the women in their quest to regain their self-respect, earn a living for themselves and their dependants and find again their legitimate places in society?

“These women have a monumental task in front of them. But the great thing about the future is that it hasn’t happened yet. People can definitely make a difference, today, in how the tomorrows will play out. It can always be better and it can always be worse.” states Jussi Ohisalo, Rule of Law Officer at UNDP Sudan.

This project is funded thanks to generous contributions from the Finnish Embassy in Cairo, co-ordinated by UNDP and implemented by Zenab NGO.

To learn more about Zenab and Fandora organizations:

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