Sit El-Shai: Tea Ladies (2018-Present)

The ‘Tea Ladies’ are found by the dozens on every street in Sudan. These makeshift mobile cafés are the equivalent to the many Tim Hortons easily found in every street corner in Canada. Being a tea lady is a business for the underprivileged. Tea and coffee are the basis of an undying culture in Sudan. Due to the large number of daily customers, it is believed that these women are the breadwinners of their homes. They are able to provide for their families, pay for their kid’s education and even wedding expenses. This is until the rise of the inflation rate in Sudan going from 25.20% to 52.40% in November 2017 which is the highest inflation rate in years. With a fixed exchange rate, the government allowed the Sudanese pound to weaken to as low as 31.5 pound to 1 USD in February 2018, and an increasingly high black market exchange went to 40 pound to 1 USD. Today 1 USD is 21.06 SDG. The rise in the exchange rate affected the price of basic commodities in a country where more than half the population of 40 million live in poverty.

The secession of South Sudan in 2011 has negatively affected the Sudanese economy, taking with it 70% of its oil revenues. Life in Sudan has not been the same since. The social class consists of two layers. The poor and the rich. The middle class no longer exists. Which means, one day you can be working in a pharmacy, and the next day you can be selling tea on the street.

The businesses of The Tea Ladies are being threatened by the government. Many of the women are unaware of their rights and that they have a small union that’s working to protect them.

The Tea Ladies of Sudan- a short film highlighting the stories of some of tea ladies will be release in 2022.

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