At Heaven’s Door: Empowering Sudanese women in need


Bab Al-Ginan is a 42-year-old widow in South Darfur in western Sudan. Her husband died in the civil war that plagued the region for years. Like many women there she has faced her future alone and struggled to farm the arid land.

UN Women Sudan has engaged 28 partners to implement UNAMID transition project activities on Rule of Law, Human Rights and Livelihoods under State Liaison Functions II to State Liaison Functions III in Darfur’s states. UN Women’s engagement places specific focus on women’s meaningful and equitable participation to ensure their voices are heard, they are proportionately represented in decision-making and negotiation processes and their concerns and needs are adequately addressed to access resources and opportunities.

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Bab Al-Ginan is a 42-year-old widow in South Darfur in western Sudan. Photo: UN Women/Ahmed Amin Ahmed

Women are the main laborers in Darfur and account for 75 per cent of farmers. Their lives face challenges as they attempt to produce crops in a tough environment with sporadic droughts and unreliable rainfall. Often the wrong crops are chosen for certain regions and the harvesting cycle is wrong. In droughts they grow almost nothing or have access to fields that are unsuitable for harvesting.

Bab Al-Ginan with 64 other women were participants in a joint UNAMID-SLF workshop enhancing women’s economic empowerment and participation in livelihood initiatives. The objective was to introduce participants to basic concepts of cooperatives, types of cooperative society methods, how to establish market networking as well as savings groups. The main target is to teach women to increase their income to support their families and communities, especially in animal production and agriculture.

The participants learned how to manage microfinance projects aimed at alleviating poverty among women’s groups. Discussions included types of income generating activities suiting women’s economic status, as well as how to open credit accounts in savings banks. Partners divided beneficiaries into three groups. Group one received four sacks of groundnuts for cooking oil processing and four empty plastic cooking oil containers, group two received hair cutting tools for both young girls and boys and group three received two restocking goats each. Bab Al-Ginan was in group three.

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Bab Al-Ginan with her goats. Photo: UN Women/Ahmed Amin Ahmed

The two goats were very profitable, and she managed well so she then grew crops and marketed them causing her finances to increase. She is now a very respected member of Menwashi’s cooperative network.

Bab al ginan seated with a member of the sacco
Bab Al-Ginan is now a very respected member of Menwashi’s cooperative network. Photo: UN Women/Ahmed Amin Ahmed

Her successful business has enabled her to adopt six orphaned children.

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Children adopted by Bab Al-Ginan. Photo: UN Women/Ahmed Amin Ahmed

One of the children was still an infant when he was adopted. Before the SLF project, she would buy milk from her own pockets even though the money was scarce but after the goats arrived she used their milk to feed the baby. Her friends have followed her example and host injured people and victims from the war.

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The adoptive mother’s name, Bab Al-Ginan means Gates of Heaven in English. Photo: UN Women/Ahmed Amin Ahmed