Displaced in Egypt: Sudanese women torn between fear back home, and uncertain future

Rawan al-Waleed has just started her first job when Sudan’s war broke out three months ago. Now, like thousands of Sudanese women, she battles with uncertainty as she fled Khartoum to Cairo.

Three months into a conflict between the country’s armed forces and the powerful paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the fighting has left much of the capital in ruins, killed thousands and displaced millions internally and outside the country.

“It was a dream for me to work in this company,” said 23-year-old Waleed. It only lasted for two weeks when the war erupted and pushed Waleed and most of her family members to flee to Cairo.

Leaving behind a brother who is still stuck in Sudan due to visa restrictions, Waleed, a computer science graduate who wished to start a career in digital marketing, says she lives in limbo.

Being among the first who fled Sudan to Egypt, Waleed has been constantly looking for a job to no avail. She sent her CV to nearly 70 companies over the past three months.

Sudan’s northern neighbor, Egypt, has received the highest number of displaced Sudanese, amounting to nearly 250,000 Sudanese who crossed the border in search for safety.

The Arab world’s most populous country is already struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis due to a weak currency and dwindling dollar reserves. Inflation has hit an all-time high of 35.7% last month.

For thousands of Sudanese women like Waleed, the country’s economic situation is an added burden.

“We are renting an apartment here in Egypt, but till when? We don’t have an income. None of my family members can find a job. We can support ourselves for the upcoming three or four months, but after that, we have no money.”

Reem Abbas, a mother of a five-year-old child has also fled Khartoum to Cairo with her family. She says she is relatively lucky as she works remotely as a media consultant for an NGO.

“It is this feeling that you don’t want to settle, but you have to. But then you can’t really plan. That is the worst thing right now,” she explained.

Just like Waleed, Abbas also left a dream behind. She was a few weeks away from getting the keys of an apartment she purchased.

Residents in Khartoum and elsewhere in the country where the conflict has stretched reported looting of private properties, destruction of infrastructure, collapse in public services and banks, making life almost impossible even if the war ended.

Waleed considered applying for a refugee status at United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Cairo. After waiting for a full day and braving heat and crowdedness, she booked an appointment to submit her application in November.

“There is nothing left for me in Sudan to go back one day. If the war ended one day, it will be difficult for the country to get back to what it used to be.”