SUDAN – September 2 2021 Life is easier now for a mother of seven Text and photos by Mohamed Sabah Awadiya felt lost after her husband left her. She wondered how to take care of her children without an income. Awadiya did not know what to do after her husband left her. The father of Awadiya's seven children—all between five and 19 years old—was the family’s breadwinner. Awadiya had limited job opportunities at her disposal, as she married young and did not go to school. Unsure and afraid, she leaned on the culinary skills she had to bake and sell sweetened pastries. She sold them with milk at the market in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, earning herself 150 Sudanese pounds ($1.20 USD) per day. “[I had a] very low income,” says Awadiya. “I could not pay for school expenses or food for my children. I could not afford good shelter or to see a doctor. I used herbal treatment when my children got sick. Our standard of living was very low." Her second-born son, Moko,* had to drop out of school to work in order to help his mother provide for the family. “I cannot express how sad that made me feel,” says Awadiya. “I was 12 years old when I gave up my studies to work,” says Moko. “I cleaned cars from morning to evening at a car wash located in front of a motor vehicle repair shop in the city. It was hard, tiring work. I gave my mother the money I brought home so that she could buy food for my younger brothers and sisters.” Support services from the SOS Children's Villages family strengthening program gave the single mother new hope for her family. When she joined the program at the beginning of 2018, her children received education support in the form of school fees, uniforms and other supplies. Moko returned to class after being away for one year. The family were registered with the national health insurance to access quality health care, and Awadiya was trained on childcare, child protection and child rights. She also attended multiple counseling sessions to improve her psychological well-being. Her great drive to succeed allowed her the opportunity to attend training in small projects management under the guidance of the Sudanese Woman Development Association. In October 2019, the mother of seven opened a traditional eatery serving homemade meals. The family strengthening team supported her new venture with stock and furniture.With time, her business began to flourish, and what started as a small business to generate sufficient money for her family has accomplished much more. “The most important achievement for me was the ability to build a safe home for my children,” Awadiya explains. “Our previous house was made of mud and sticks. it collapsed three times during the rainy season, risking the lives of my children. The new house is made of bricks. In this new house, I have been able to build an additional two rooms, plus a special section for the children to respect their privacy and so that they can pursue their hobbies.” Awadiya hopes to continue to do more work on the house. The effect of COVID-19 While Awadiya was happy enjoying the success of her eatery, COVID-19 struck in early 2020. Businesses in Sudan closed for a while during the lockdown that ensued. This greatly reduced Awadiya’s income and threatened the financial freedom she had worked so hard to achieve. To cope with the difficult situation, the SOS Children's Villages team provided Awadiya and other vulnerable households with emergency food packages to sustain them during the lockdown. The SOS team also organized awareness sessions and distributed soap and hand sanitizers. Even though Awadiya lost a huge portion of her income during the lockdown, she has gradually found her footing as the restrictions eased. She supports her family and is able to indulge her children by buying the things she once considered luxurious. Her children are growing up carefree, attending school and enjoying their childhood. Moko is in the eighth grade and no longer carries the responsibility of feeding his siblings. “These days, my mother is able to meet our needs,” says the 16-year-old. “She even bought us clothes and cookies during religious celebrations like Eid. I am so confident about the future. I want to be a mechanical engineer. The positive thing that came out of the bad situation when I was working at the car wash is that I acquired skills in repairing vehicles and loved it. I desire to make a career out of that experience.” With life now easier for Awadiya, she has gained confidence in herself and interacts more with women in her community, participating in their monthly meetings. “I feel relieved, comfortable and I have stopped overthinking about the day to day provisions and survival of my children. I am now thinking about the future.” *Name changed to protect the privacy of the child.