Walaa is a 25-year-old democracy and women’s rights activist from Khartoum, Sudan.
Walaa’s introduction to politics came at a young age. At four years old, she recalls her father’s imprisonment for political reasons in a country torn by conflict, dictatorship and discrimination. “It was so difficult for me to understand the reason why they put my beloved dad in prison,” she says, “He is such a peace-loving person.” Walaa says her sense of justice came from her parents, both teachers who helped her believe that she could create change in her country.
She took this commitment to justice with her to the University of Khartoum and became heavily involved in student politics. Walaa was one of the few young women who engaged and participated in public speeches, student union election’s campaigns and advocacy campaigns to promote women’s rights. In 2007, she was elected as the first woman and the youngest-ever president of Khartoum University’s student union.
Walaa now works with the Strategic Initiative for Women in the Horn of Africa, a network of civil society organizations. Her work focuses on reforming the discriminatory laws in Sudan that restrict the participation of women in both public and private arenas. She has also worked closely with the women affected by the conflict between the north and south Sudan, and in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states. “I am learning every day from the stories of women who survive war and its consequences, from displacement to sexual violence,” says Walaa.
Walaa was one of the participants in the Nobel Women’s Initiative’s Sister-to-Sister Mentorship program this year. The program included a six-week residency period based in Ottawa, building upon important advocacy and communication skills. While participating in the program, Walaa traveled to New York and met with the International Campaign the End Rape in War.
Now Walaa is back in Khartoum, and unwavering in her commitment to grassroots work in Sudan. She believes that the efforts of the women in Sudan will result in peace and equality. It’s tireless commitment to democracy and women’s rights that makes Walaa an activist to watch!
Watch as Walaa speaks about her trip to New York, and what she learned about international advocacy work:
For woman in Sudan, no escape from misery, the New York Times, 19 Feb 2012.
Nobel Women’s Initiative calls on Sudan to release women human rights defenders, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 13 Jul 2012.
Women at the forefront of revolts in Sudan, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 20 Jul 2012.
For South Sudan’s women, the war hasn’t ended, the Global Post, 5 Aug 2012.
Sudan: Women human rights defenders gaining momentum, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 21 Sep 2012.
History repeats itself in Sudan, Women Under Siege, 12 Nov 2012.
Walaa: What the Mentorship Program Taught Me About International Advocacy, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 29 Nov 2012.