الجمعة، 19 يوليو 2013

Kamilia Kura: Relentless in Empowering Displaced Women

Kamilia is the founder and Executive director of Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA). She dreams about a Sudan that respects the diversity of its own people. She hopes for people to live in peace and dignity and to be treated as Sudanese citizens not according to their ethnic, religious, regional and gender identities. She says “I want the old days of Sudan to revive; when people were just Sudanese”

She was born on 1969 to Christian parents in Kadugli; the capital of South Kordofan state. Kamilia’s father decided to sell his flock of cows and move to Khartoum seeking a better life for his family. They migrated to Khartoum when she was an infant. She was raised in the church and volunteered to teach at Sunday schools since she was 14 years old.

Kamilia kept her eyes on attending the university and not have the same fate that most of her peers face; getting married and have children before reaching high school. Her family was willing to get her married soon after she graduated from intermediate school. The bishop Butrus Kura; her uncle and role model saved her by demanding that her father allow her to attend high school. The Bishop Butrus was supporting girls’ education; he advised many families which came to the church to allow their girls to attend high school, and many husbands to allow their wives to attend the university. Kamilia is keeping her uncle’s favor and wishes all the girls could access higher education. She got married after high school and moved to Nigeria with her husband where she got a diploma on community psychosocial intervention from Saint Jose State University on 1996.

On 1997, Kamilia was back to Sudan while the civil war in the south was raging between the government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army Movement. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons were arriving in Khartoum. She talked to her friend Fatima Sulieman "We need to do something for our mothers and sisters who escaped the war to Khartoum" Along with one of the church elders; they have mobilized people to join them, conducted meetings, collected donations and provided humanitarian relief. On 2002, the group was registered as a nonprofit organization under the name Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA) to access grants that maintain the sustainability of their services and widen their community outreach. It kept growing and its mandate extended beyond providing humanitarian assistance to advocating for women’s rights, peace, building the capacities of women and youth through education, training on development related issues and awareness raising.

Threats by government security agents have always accompanied the work of Kamilia as a leader of a non-registered group and as an executive director of NuWEDA. Community based initiatives in the 1990’s were very limited; additionally most of the IDPs were coming from the war zones in South Sudan, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. The authorities in Khartoum regard them as rebels and spies and everybody who helps them as having a relation to the rebel groups. Till now the authorities are not keeping good intentions in the work of national civil society and Kamilia is subjected regularly to harassment and interrogations.

Changing social norms that violate women's rights, such as domestic violence and lack of women’s control over their bodies, is the challenge that NuWEDA has taken on. Kamilia was labeled by conservative men in displaced communities for spreading immoralities through educating women about family planning and inciting them against domestic violence. 

Girls’ and women’s education is NuWEDA’s missing key to empowering and securing women lives and well being through offering them better job opportunities, and a better life with choices. While NuWEDA is raising the community awareness by girls' education, public higher education is so expensive for most of the displaced families which are struggling with earning the daily living. NuWEDA is willing to run a program for sponsoring displaced women and girls’ university education. They have been seeking funds for this program for the past 5 years, although they couldn’t receive enough funds for the program launch.

In June, 2011, the civil war broke out again in South Kordofan region between the government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army/North. Bombardments of Kadugli and more than 40 towns, limited access to food, high incidents of rape by government militias, arbitrary arrests and forced military recruitment of women has made life terrible for families and forced 300,000-400,000 persons either to flee to Khartoum or seek refuge in South Sudan. Displaced families are living in poverty and women are heading the households. The majority has limited professional skills which leave them with limited and highly competitive employment opportunities like domestic work. There is no legislation protecting the rights of domestic workers by defining minimum wage, working hours, leaves and end of service benefits. NuWEDA is coordinating an economic empowerment program with other civil society organizations with the purpose of organizing displaced women in cooperatives to advance their economic status through savings, acquaint them with small business skills, improve their access to loans and form a sort of informal trade union.

Kamilia believes in empowering women to advance the status of displaced communities; her vision drove the formation of NuWEDA. The people’s needs for assistance have inspired her to form a group of volunteers, and then build a nonprofit organization. She finds the motive and legitimacy of her work from the people she serves.

السبت، 13 يوليو 2013

Cecafa Championship 2013: In A Stadium or A Battlefield?

Lots of critics have been made upon kicking off Cecafa championship in Kadugli and Elfashir. The two cities have witnessed unrest and continuous threats of Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) attacks. Apparently it was an attempt by the government of Sudan to show peace and stability in the regions of Darfur and South Kordofan and proof to the international community the success of Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and deny the civil war in Nuba Mountain and the SRF control over most of South Kordofan State territories.

Somehow was a clever strategy by the government; knowing that SRF wouldn’t attack the civilians in a football match, commit war crimes and crimes against humanity where all the attention of international community is drawn.

The government and UNAMID have made most of the arrangements to host Cecafa in Elfashir. The state government has founded play grounds in a valley although they can be destroyed at any moment by floods. One of Aldaraga Alola neighborhoods residents testified that they are suffering from water shortage since the preparations of the championship have begun due to the use of tankers which supply them with water in irrigating playgrounds. According to 3 women activists; the state government has put the responsibility of feeding visiting teams on the people of Elfashir; each 8-9 neighborhoods were responsible from feeding a team. UNAMID sponsorship to Cecafa was under the theme “Sports for Peace”. They haven’t noticed that SRF, tribes and other conflicted parties are not taking part of these activities. UNAMID has taken the responsibility of protecting football teams while protecting civilians wasn’t their mandate.

Along with two of my friends; I was lucky to attend two football matches in Elfashir; Marikh Elfashir versus Elman team of Somalia on Sunday 23rd, June 2013 and Marikh Elfashir versus Alahly Shendi on Wednesday 26th June 2013. Although football is not one of my interests but I’ve enjoyed watching the people cheering and supporting Marikh Elfashir in the two games.

Once I’ve arrived to Elfashir and Alnugaa stadiums; I couldn't miss the massive numbers of armed police officers, central reserve (Abutaira) militants, soldiers (SAF), popular defense militants, and Special Forces militants and few of traffic police officers. Approximately there were over 200 armed officers in more than 25 cars with Dushka.

I was afraid to attract their attention or challenge them by invading this “men’s only zone” but very curious to see their faces and expose what their eyes hide. Unlike Khartoum they were helping us to get inside and greeting us after their team won.

Inside the stadium they were even more armed men at least 500 of them. They were following the match closely, cheering and laughing rather than looking around and keeping the place secure.
Those soldiers/ militants are coming from all over the country to fight in a war it is not their own, staying in a city that has no regular theatre shows and cinemas. They found themselves with unaccountable authority, arms and vehicles full of fuel, moving randomly in the city with lots of aggression and boredom. Those young men ought to fall in love, marry and raise their children rather than committing horrors and killing their fellow citizens or being killed with a deadly shot.

Children street vendors were enjoying the matches, selling water and local snacks, getting excited by supporting Marikh Elfashir and cheering for their role models (Alsalateen[1]). My friends and I cheered for Marikh Elfashir which recovered from its death and won the match against Alahly Shendi. A cheerer said “I really want Marikh Elfashir to win the match; it is unfair that the people of Shendi are winning everything”

Coming to an end; Cecafa wasn’t made in Elfashir and Kadugli for peace but an arrogant power show. Elfashir didn’t look safer by hosting the championship. Football players testified that they were terrified in Kadugli for hearing explosions all the time as if they were in "An action movie". Hundreds of thousands of IDPs haven’t enjoyed watching the matches; at least the championship has kept militants busy for a while.

Photo of Marikh Elfashir Vs Elman team of Somalia 23/6/2013

[1] A nickname for Marikh Elfashir players means Sultans

الأحد، 7 يوليو 2013

Unfinished... Untold Stories: Voices & Faces from Darfur (2)

Super Women in Abu Shouk

I've asked few women from Abu Shouk(1) camp if they have been working or doing any other job beside their household. They said they are not working but making bricks, selling food in the market and nearby schools and farming. Women of Darfur "Jobless status" include doing their productive and reproductive roles.While men are not really responsible from breadwinning; they continue to abuse women by practicing polygamy and domestic violence. I couldn't believe my ears when an educated women and an activist told me that Darfuri women love the harsh treatment of their husbands. If a man was nice to his wife she would think that he doesn't love her.
I was passing by women who were making bricks. They have stopped their work for a few seconds and stared at our car. I saw hope in their eyes they were just checking out if I was an aid worker but I've nothing except waving for them and honoring their extremely hard job. Their smiles have made my day.

Notes from Abu Shouk:

The camp near Alfashir is much similar to camps around Khartoum but it is much bigger and there is extensive existence of soldiers and a huge check point. In Abu Shouk the well-structured buildings are a mosque and a green building with big photo of Ali Osman & Elbashir(2). I've notice an empty yard with a label "The Egyptian Clinic". I called my memories back to 2009 and I've remembered the incident of The Egyptian government sending drugs and medications in a military helicopter directly to a camp in Darfur. When the ministry of health and asked to check those medicines they needed to transport them again to Khartoum; where the National Board for Medications and Poisons rejected to check unclassified drugs. The classification was done by a volunteer and most of the medicines were expired or about to expire. It was just an attempt by the Egyptian government to trash those medicines.
Inside the camp I've noticed a billboard of a WFP project in partnership with Kuwaiti company & I've learnt about another Kuwaiti company was contracted to do the catering for UNAMID. I wondered how some states are benefiting from the ongoing crisis and how they are not giving a shit to the people of Sudan/Darfur. I've not hear any statement by Kuwaiti government regarding the people of Sudan.

National Youth Union Participation in Cecafa Championship Exhibition: Stealing Public Property

Cecafa championship was accompanied by a cultural exhibition from Darfur. The participants were civil society organizations, entrepreneurs and the national youth union which I'm really confused in which category I shall put. It is not a Governmental/ Non Governmental Organization neither a political party but something in between. Their section in the exhibition was one of the most beautiful sections. They had a photo archive from Darfur; which I believe it's not theirs and had been stolen from the government archive of Darfur which is a public property. The photos reflected the beauty of nature in Darfur and the culture of certain tribes. Below is a part of the exhibition.
P.S. no photos of farmers were there; only herders and nomads.
Darfuri Proverbs

Ain Farah; Kutum

Hofrat Alshaitan in Jebel Mara: an endless hole

الثلاثاء، 2 يوليو 2013

Unfinished... Untold Stories: Voices & Faces from Darfur (1)

Those stories are not complete, yet told. They are sketches of 5 minutes of chat. They need be told because in Khartoum and anywhere else in the world you cannot encounter similar stories of daily life influenced by war and traditions.

hand made bags, hats and mats in Elfashir

Disciplining the displaced:

I asked her to take me to visit Zamzam camp where she lives. She strongly said "NO" and explained further:

"I even don't feel safe living there. Last week a lot of soldiers have been killed in a battle and 7 soldiers were severely injured. The rest of government militia has passed by Zamzam while taking their dead and injured fellows to Elfashir. They immediately started beating up the people fetching for water and in the market. The violence by armed officers of the government has continued for several days.
Yesterday I was walking back home and I've heard people talking about soldiers being in the market. In no time I've changed my direction and took the longest way to home to avoid passing by the market."

I really couldn't ask her why the soldiers treat the displaced people in Zamzam violently. I know she would never have an answer not only to this question in my mind but also to the reasons behind this devastating war. Neither she nor I can understand why those innocent people have lost their beloved, belongings and were forced to flee their villages. Only the war lords know.

Family Occasion:

My taxi driver apologized for picking me up in the early morning saying that he has a family occasion. When I met him the day after I've learnt that the family occasion was a newborn feast "Simaya" in their neighborhood and it is inappropriate to leave the neighborhood while your neighbor is making tents in front of his house. At least you should spend that day with them. Bearing in mind my taxi driver is having another full time job.
A friend who works for a public governmental office was not surprised by the taxi driver execuse. She used to stay at home for 40 days when her father passed away.

The Road to Nyala:

The road form Elfashir to Nyala is approximately 280 km but the trip may take 8 hours. There is many check points in the road where their control may differ from point to point. Points are either controlled by rebel groups, Janjaweed or government authorities. All of them are collecting taxes from bus drivers. When there are battles between those groups they cut the road completely.

Dead Soldiers:

She asked me "Did you noticed any abnormal movement or sounds this morning?" I told her that I've heard ambulance and noise in the early morning. She continued: 

"There was a battle yesterday 27 Km away from Elfashir. One of our neighbors has lost a son who was a soldier. His colleagues called the family in the midnight telling them by his death. Till now the officials haven't announce any news or even contacted the families of the dead soldiers"

She kept silent for a moment, stared in the clouds and said: 

"A lot of families do not know the fate of her sons specially those who are not from Darfur. The officials don't call them back saying we are sorry your son has passed away, but their fellow soldiers do. Sometimes their fellows even don't have any contact to the family; they collect their military ID cards and keep them if someday a person show up and ask about the disappeared soldier"