Now Back In Sudan, Khadeejah Has Come Full Circle

Migrant returnee Khadeejah Shaeban has come full circle – and she seems to relish in that detail. In March she fulfilled a once-off order to supply the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa with bags. This is three years since the 52-year-old returned to Sudan from Libya, with support from the same programme.

Soon after her arrival in Sudan, Khadeejah was offered reintegration support, which allowed her to re-establish her livelihood and to support her children. She opted for assistance in setting up a tailoring shop – which is where she is sewing the bags. Made of fabric and reusable, the bags are given to migrants in transit who use them to carry their documents, among other things. They are branded, which allows IOM staff to easily identify migrant returnees at the point of arrival, where they can be assisted.

Relating her journey back to Sudan, Khadeejah said when her husband passed away in Libya at the height of the internal upheaval, everything changed for her and her children and they all decided to go to Sudan. "I have five kids. Initially, I came back with three of them at my own cost, to assess the situation in Sudan. Luckily, my kids got along well and liked it here, so I decided to go back to Libya and to bring back those who were still in Libya.”

Khadeejah had gone to the Sudanese embassy to ask for support with taking her kids back to Sudan. It was embassy staff who introduced the family to IOM, to whom Khadeejah also submitted the family’s documents. A week later they were provided with a details of scheduled flight to return to Sudan.

Upon their arrival in Khartoum, IOM staff received the family at the airport and assisted them with transportation to Khadeeja’s home area, their final destination. But this was only the beginning of their time in Sudan.

“It wasn’t easy to reestablish my life in Sudan, yet with the reintegration support I was provided, I was able to open a sewing shop for women's clothes,” Khadeejah explains. “The support provided me with the capital to purchase a sewing machine, fabric, string, and other things I needed for the shop.”

It was Khadeejah’s previous knowledge that was her biggest influence in establishing a sewing business, and with the help of her eldest son, she started designing clothes as well.

“Our shop was received very well by the community, and customers started coming from different areas, even places far from my shop,” Khadeejah says. She ascribed this to word of mouth publicity she received from a satisfied clientelle. “Seeing my family pick itself up and support each other, made me thankful of what I have,” she says.

Regarding the contract to supply the bags to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, she says: “I was glad when I got the contract, and when I knew that the bags I made assist IOM-assisted return migrants to their countries of origin, I was happy to know that I contribute to unite families."