Saturday, 17 December 2011
WHY SUDAN AND WHY EDUCATION OF WOMEN?
People often want to know how Together for Sudan began. The answer is that TfS was born in Sudan following a request for help from Sudanese women. But what, people ask next, is Together for Sudan accomplishing? And does it work?
These questions are on target and usually result in those of us who know Together for Sudan beginning to speak all at once. It’s true that working in Sudan can be difficult due to the enormous needs of the people, the size of the country, extreme climate and increasingly difficult travel regulations for foreigners. Then there are the many requests for medical, financial and other help which are beyond our mandate, to say nothing of our limited means.
From time to time bureaucracy, misunderstanding and delay have turned into the “Are we really getting anywhere?” feeling, especially when the work which our Sudanese colleagues are doing has been impeded. But that doesn’t last long when we remember what Together for Sudan has accomplished, how we have developed through the years and the opportunities which lie ahead. Finding ourselves now on the verge of starting work in South Sudan as well as continuing in the north, I shake my head and wonder at the audacity — and the privilege — of it all. Working with women to help other women is what TfS is about.
My response to the question “Why Sudan?” is that I was living in Khartoum in the mid 1990s, a time of great neglect of the Sudanese people by the international community, when a group of Muslim women invited me to set up peace dialogue between northern and southern women. About this same time a Christian mother in the Nuba Mountains asked me to put her daughter through university and I agreed to do so because several people, some of them unknown to me, had helped me through university. The work which is TfS grew from those small beginnings, changing many times along the way but always listening to what Sudanese women say they need most: education for themselves and their children. More broadly, what Sudanese women need most – and this is true in both Sudan and South Sudan – is a hand up rather than a hand-out. They can take it from there.
The first project in the work known today as Together for Sudan was University Scholarships for Women. Since then TfS has sent some 200 women through universities in Sudan and currently has 154 women at universities in Sudan and South Sudan. In the late 1990s a number of projects, including a mobile library, a listening service for suicidal and despairing people and a women’s centre, flowered and faded for various reasons.
At present TfS has eight projects, most urgently in need of funding. In addition to University Scholarships for Women, Women’s Literacy Classes, HIV/AIDS Awareness Outreach and Eye Care Outreach, there are also Vocational Training, Scholarships for HIV/AID Affected Children and Solar Lighting Panels for schools,clinics and community centers off the electricity grid. May I ask you to choose one of these projects – perhaps one related to help given to you at a time of need – and send us a cheque? There is joy in sharing!
Lillian Craig Harris