Piles of old bottles fill the storeroom of Um Hageen Al Agib’s market stall, in western Omdurman, where she has used her loan to set up one of the neighbourhood’s most popular home-made perfume shops:
“I mix the perfumes myself, and I sell about eight different types. The biggest seller is called ‘khumra’ – it’s a traditional scent especially for married women. I also sell other local beauty products, such as soap, face creams, hair oils and henna ink. Women use the henna to paint beautiful patterns on their bodies for weddings and celebrations. I sell medicinal herbs too.
“The first loan I took was worth 300 pounds ($150). I was running a similar business at the time, but it was much smaller. The loan helped me make it bigger and more profitable. After I repaid it, I took another 500 pounds – each time I expanded the shop a bit more. At first I just had a small table and one or two products – now I have a big shop, a store-room and many, many customers.
“The profits from the stall pay for food for my home, and help pay the school fees for my three sons. One of my sons is now in university – which makes me very proud. School is getting more and more expensive, and my husband is elderly and cannot work. The shop helps the entire family.”