And What About Tea Sellers? An Interview With Amoona Amin AbdelJalil

Workers belonging to the informal sector in Sudan are generally considered to be subject to economic hardships, as they rely on daily income, and don’t entertain state protection rights, due to not being officially affiliated to a certain institution. Tea ladies, being both women, and women from the working class, are from the ones mostly affected amid the political turmoil, a deteriorating economic situation, and a worldwide health crisis. Already marginalized populations are the ones who are disproportionately more harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak, and that includes tea ladies in Sudan.

AMNA interviewed a Tea lady to get insights on how this outbreak had affected her personally, in this interview, she shares with you how her livelihood has been affected, as well as how she’s been coping so far.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, and what you do?

“ My name is Amoona Amin AbdelJalil, I’m 36 years old, and I live in Alushara. I’m a widower, with 5 kids, and also bearing the responsibility of two of my nephews, my brother and my mum. In total, I’m the breadwinner for 10 people.

I work as a tea-seller in front of a grocery store within our neighbourhood in Alushara, I usually work during the evening from after sunset till midnight, however the current changes have affected my workflow. My work and income rely on god’s will, it’s very unsteady, I don’t have regular customers, I sometimes have ones from the neighbourhood, sometimes from far places, I never know. My income itself is very unsteady, it can sometimes suffice to meet my basic needs, but sometimes not. The main challenge I face as a tea seller is the inflating prices of the ingredients I need, a kilogram of sugar costs 80 SDG today, but 150 SDG tomorrow”.

Are you a member of any informal women workers union/cooperative?

“I’m not  at all participating in such a body, I don’t know anything about them and what they do”.

What do you know about Coronavirus, and how did you obtain this information?

“I know it has first been sparked in China, the symptoms are cough, headache, sore throat and fever, this is what we’ve heard, is it right?

We heard about the preventative measures and regulations from the TV and radio channels, we became adamant to stay clean 24/7”.

Were you able to apply the instructions you learnt to protect yourself from the virus?

“One should have a clean heart before anything…. I make sure to keep my hands clean while working but I can’t avoid gatherings by not going out. How can I not go out? My kids will not even have water to drink and food to eat. If we’re provided with food, we’ll stay home, might as well have some rest, I have kids that I’m both a mother and father for. Our workspace is not safe, we engage with all kinds of people and we don’t know who’s infected and who isn’t. However, the numbers have decreased with the current events”.

How has the curfew policy affected your workflow?

“My working hours have been affected of course by the curfew, my time is now more limited, and I can’t work at night where I get more customers. The work is not enough these days”.

Do you think there are certain groups within the informal sector, who might be affected more or less by this COVID-19 situation?

“I’m not sure but I think there are other women in the informal sector who might be more affected by the COVID-19 events. Some families have a man or husband who also provides, and in other cases the responsibility falls upon the woman only, I ‘ve only experienced this after becoming a widower.

In general all workers depending on daily income have their livelihoods deteriorated, contrary to people who still receive wages”.

How have you adapted to this new situation?

“ Well, I have only shifted my working hours to the morning, and of course the prices had to be increased due to the decrease in customers”.

Since the rising of those events, have you received any kind of support to help ease your situation?

“We have not received any kind of support in our area, from the government or civil society organizations. We have only interacted with our resistance committee, who led us through the prevention measures guidelines, but have not provided us with any sanitizers, gloves or face masks, they only did the talking”.

Government and civil society- What can they provide?

“We only care about the basic food supplies, we don’t want anything else, especially that Ramadan is coming close”.

Is there a final message you would like to direct towards the society, and anything else you would like to add?

“I would just like to say that we only want to secure our livelihood, and that’s all that we need. I thank you for the opportunity to let me speak”.

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