Khartoum, Sudan: “I am eight years old,” Omniya says. At least, that’s what her mother tells her, she adds.
The mother and daughter live together on the streets of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.
“I do not know when [we came here to Khartoum],” she continues. “We have not been here long. Khartoum is so big.”
Before, Omniya and her mother lived in a village near Nyala, in south Darfur. But they left because the area was very insecure, and they didn’t have a home to live in.
Omniya’s 17-year-old brother, Ahmed, stayed behind in Darfur.
“I remember when my brother would take me with him, and we would go collect empty Pepsi and water bottles and sell them. We would race and we would fight with the other children,” says Omniya.
“He wouldn’t give me the money. I went out him with him a lot, but he is the oldest, and he bought me candy so that I wouldn’t talk.”
Ahmed now works at the Nyala market, where he polishes shoes.
“He has a mobile [phone],” says Omniya. “He knows how to get things. He says it is a big one.”
Omniya and her mother now live near a marketplace in Khartoum.
“I live here. I see [the fruit] every day and they look so colourful and sweet. I may play with it and not eat it,” she says, looking at the nearby fruit stall.
Omniya and her mother often spend their days walking around the market, watching others buy the things they cannot afford.
“I want an apple. It is so red. I love red,” she says, wrapping an apple given to her by one of the vendors in her scarf.
“My scarf, I love it. A girl should wear it. But it is so big and it is what I wrap around my body over my gown when it gets colder. When I get money, I tie it in a knot in the corner of my scarf, I love it. I also play with it. Me and the other girls here, we stretch one of our scarves and twist it into a line, and two girls would hold each end and bounce it up and down and another jumps up and down in the middle. Do you know this game?” she asks.
But Omniya worries that her scarf will not be enough to keep her warm when the weather turns cold. “People say it will get colder soon. Maybe this scarf will not be enough, and my mother says she will find sheets for us.”
Taking the apple out again, she cradles it in her hand. “I want another one,” she says. “My mother is sleeping over there, and I want to give her one.”
There are other things that Omniya would like, too.
“I want to have a house so big I can tell the other children about it. And I will clean it, and my mother will tell the neighbours to come, and they will chat and eat.”
She points at a nearby car. “And we will have a red car like that one that can be at the house at night so thieves will not take its mirrors away,” she says.
Omniya, whose name means hope, says she will not come back to the market when she grows up. “I will wake up every day, wear my clothes and go to work, just like you.”
“I will buy a mobile [phone], too. Let me see yours?” She starts pressing buttons, then frowns: “It doesn’t have games. We went to the hospital, and the doctor had a mobile with games.”
The hospital was an exciting trip for Omniya, but she was worried about her mother who needed to see the doctor. “She coughed a lot and her eyes were very tired. The doctor told me she will be okay very soon. But she does not listen to me, I told her to put the tobe [ a traditional Sudanese item of clothing] on her face the other night when it was very cold. When we walked back from the hospital she did.”
When she grows up, Omniya wants to be rich. “I will take my mother to Hajj. She always says she wants to go to Hajj, and I will buy a car and a mobile, and I will buy beautiful scarves and blouses.”