Sudan in London: The Sudan Women’s Association in London

The Sudan Women’s Association was established in 1991, when the war in Sudan drove many women to flee their country and look for refuge in the UK.

It is run by a group of Sudanese women living in the Camden area. It was set up to help Sudanese women in the UK become less isolated, to help with social exclusion, promote education, preserve culture, and develop a sense of community among their members.

I spoke to Rita Paulino, 35, who’s been living in London for five years, about her involvement with the association. She was excited about the organisation’s imminient rebrand: they’re changing their name to the “South Sudan Women in Skills Development” in the near future, to better reflect the work they do.

“I came to London from Sudan in Africa five years ago. I joined the association four years ago, mainly in order to meet new people. I wanted to learn what’s going on and find out how to live in London.

“Our community centre offers workshops and training for women to make friends and gain experience. Without the SWA, it would be difficult for me to find a job. After taking workshops in hospitality, I was able to go to Goodenough College, and obtain a qualification. Since then, I’ve been able to find work, at places like the Barbican Centre. It was great working there – there’s so much classical music, so many people from all over the world, it was wonderful!

“Another important thing the SWA do is organising projects for young people to encourage them to learn about their home country, what life is like there, and how the situation can be improved. We think projects like this help give young people something to do, otherwise they’re just hanging around the streets with nothing to do. We’d rather they were in here and engaged than out on the street.

“We always return to the same topic whenever we get together at the SWA: Sudan, and the problems there. We like to campaign to raise awareness of the problems in Sudan, we like to be politically active.

“I love London – here everyone is a foreigner! There’s a spirit of saying, yes, I also come from somewhere else, and now I’m living in this city. When all the different communities come together like this, we can learn from each other and see how rich different people’s ideas are. We can celebrate each other’s festivals, celebrate how they’re living. London has great charities that express this cultural diversity through their actions. It’s a very creative city.”

Here’s a video of Rita’s colleague, Elizabeth Ajith, talking about work at the association:

Read more about the Sudanese Women’s Association on the Basis Project website.

Do you know of any other examples of Sudanese culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.

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