I can’t believe its been six months since we wrote our first blog post introducing ourselves to the Nobel Women’s Initiative online community and that it’s been six month since I ever met Maria Luisa and Aghssan in Canada together with the rest of the team. We all got along very easily and shared our stories with each other, the stories that all seem different but deep-down, have a common ground. I see three of us as young women coming from different parts of the world, holding heavy mountains on our shoulders – the pain and suffering of our people. This mountain exists on every activist’s shoulder.
As a Sudanese, as a woman activist in particular, coming from the country that been changed fundamentally, unfortunately to the worse.
It is regular news in Sudan to hear about women being lashed in public for wearing pants or hanging out with friends at night. In my country, just because of you are an activist you can be simply detained for long time, tortured, or even raped as was my brave friend Safia Ishag . In my country a statement by the minister of health that any Sudanese woman who smokes is a “hooker” would not disturb the public media, in my country there are no laws in place to protect women from harassment, and furthermore if a Sudanese woman has been raped, she should provide proof of this rape or otherwise she will be punished for committing adultery (simply because she admitted to have sex with someone). In my country, death by stoning is the punishment for a married woman who commits adultery. In my country women are living in caves without access to water, food or health care because of the war. Women’s bodies in my country have been used for 10 years as a weapon of war, thousands of women are raped on a daily basis in Darfur and recently South Kordufan, and none of the perpetrators have been held accountable. My country’s president is the only ruling president in the world requested by the international justice for committing genocide and crimes against humanity in our beloved Darfur.
Dealing with all those atrocities is frustrating, and on the other hand we believe that this country is ours, and the future is ours – this is the motivation for us as young activists to keep up the fight for rights.
Sharing the frustrations with colleagues or friends is so helpful, and through the program I discovered that it is even more helpful when you meet other people from different backgrounds and countries who hold in their hearts millions of stories and frustrations. It becomes like a “group therapy”.
When Maria Luisa was telling us about indigenous people in Mexico and the disappearing of women in her country, or when Aghssan was sharing with us how occupation attempting to wipe away a whole nation’s history in her beloved Palestine, I feel inspired by their stories, their struggle and their courage – it brings back the energy to my soul.
All the stories in my country and around the world make me admire every single woman and man who sacrificed their lives and safety to assure that all people are enjoying equal rights, to admire all the silent voices because of repression – those who didn’t choose to be silent but were forced to be, victims of rape, and every single woman who has been abused or harassed. Being a woman in this world is not easy, that is why I admire all the women around the world.
The endings of stories have been always my favorite part. Some people would say that in our country this is the end of the story, as the flourishing time of this country had gone, while others would say that it is easy to destroy, but very difficult to build (not to mention the re-building of your people’s destroyed hearts and souls)! It doesn’t matter, for me this is still the beginning, we are still young. I would love to witness in Sudan, the season that we – all men and women – will enjoy equal rights and will live in a just society, we will not give up our struggle to achieve our rights. If it is not us who will enjoy being in a just Sudan, it will be our next generation.
Walaa was one of the first participants in the Nobel Women’s Initiative Sister-to-Sister Mentorship Program. She spent six weeks in Ottawa with our team and two other young women’s rights activists from Mexico and Palestine in 2012. All three returned to their home organizations and continue to work with us on short-term projects in support of women’s rights. These are her final reflections on participating in the program.