Following violence and displacement, Zeina has built up a business selling food in Chad.

Credits: SECADEV

Zeina’s* life took a downward spiral when her husband died. He was a successful trader in Fasher, Darfur, in Sudan. He travelled to the capital Khartoum, and to Egypt and Libya, as he built up his business.

“I lived like a queen. My husband had herds of camels, cows and sheep. He earned a lot of money,” said Zeina, 45.

This life ended when her husband was killed in the Darfur conflict. His elder brother took over the running of the family and Zeina’s family had to go and live with him in the village of Angabra.

But the conflict caught up with them again. They had no choice other than fleeing to safety in eastern Chad. It was in a camp in Tiné that Zeina discovered that her brother and other relatives had been killed too. She was at the mercy of her increasingly violent brother-in-law.

Zeina has sustained wounds to her face and hand. “It was he who injured me,” she said. “He tried to abuse me several times. Make me take him as my husband. To abide by tradition, I said I would marry my husband’s younger brother. The older one prevented this. He has made the younger brother leave the camp.

“He accused me of secretly seeing a man and being pregnant by him. One evening, he sent three men here to torture me so that I’d admit being unfaithful.”

The violence only stopped after her brother-in-law was arrested. He later escaped prison, where he’d been detained for what he’d done to Zeina.

Many husbands and fathers were killed as a result of the war in Darfur. The widows and orphans are particularly vulnerable groups in the refugee camp environment.

Through Caritas Chad (known nationally as SECADEV), the women receive a small amount of money to undertake group activities that will increase their income. There are 23 groups of mostly women in the Milé camp in eastern Chad.

The group to which Zeina belongs is made up of three women and two men and is called Lessis, which means “kind deed” in Arabic. Each member of the group gets $40 (€30). The idea is that the group gives back the capital plus interest after six months.

Zeina bought a spaghetti machine. Caritas trained her in spaghetti making. Six training centres in the camps teach women techniques to make and sell local food products, such as mango juice, tomato sauce and biscuits.

“At the moment I have about $150 (€113) of merchandise and make an average of $12 (€9) a day,” said Zeina. “I use around a third of this to take care of my daily needs and those of my family. I put the rest to one side to finance my activities, and I also send some money to my mother in Fasher.”

Zeina is still young. One day she would like to remarry. But for now her focus is on taking care of her family and earning enough money to ensure her independence.