United States Department of State honors Ms. Awadeya Mahmoud Coco

A champion of women working in Sudan’s informal sector, Awadeya Mahmoud has been fearless in confronting government authorities, challenging unfair social norms, and overcoming economic obstacles. Ms. Mahmoud is Founder and Chair of both the Women’s Food and Tea Sellers’ Cooperative and the Women’s Multi-Purpose Cooperative for Khartoum State. The cooperatives represent some 8,000 women, many of them internally displaced by conflict in Darfur and the Two Areas, who depend on selling tea and other informal sector work to survive. Like the women she represents, Ms. Mahmoud was displaced by conflict and became a roadside tea seller when her family moved to Khartoum. As a “tea lady,” she faced harassment from authorities. Unshaken by the fact that she had no legal recourse in Sudan’s male-dominated society, she organized women into cooperatives, encouraging them to assert their rights, engage politicians on police behavior, and skillfully use the media to draw public attention to the challenges women in the informal sector face. 25 years later, her continuing resolve to seek justice and equal opportunities for women remains an inspiration to women throughout SudanAwadeya-Mahmoud2

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