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International Women’s Day: The women enforcing change through Ascend Sudan /

 

Sudan has seen significant progress in the rights of women in recent years.

When the transitional government formed in 2019, laws restricting freedom of dress and movement were repealed and 40% of the country’s parliamentary seats were allocated to women, though not all of them are filled, according to the United Nations. 

Women are also taking on more leadership and management roles, notably in the UK Aid-funded Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (Ascend) programme’s country team in Sudanwhere women in fact make up the majority – three of the four team members are women.

On International Women’s Day, we are celebrating this era of progress for women in Sudan with our female team members. 

Here’s what makes them passionate about their work and the future of Sudan and what they #ChoosetoChallenge to callout inequality.  


ARWA ABUBAKER — MONITORING, EVALUATION AND LEARNING (MEL) OFFICER

What do you lead on?

I lead on tracking program activities in Sudan and evaluate the results as well as generate evidence to uphold better planning in the future, promote policy and authenticate decision making.

What are the priorities of the programme? 

To fight five neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) — onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, visceral leishmaniasis, shistosomiasis and trachoma. We focus on the international road map priorities to end NTDs, together with the national priorities to eliminate and control  NTDs in Sudan. We are raising the flag of sustainability and making it a goal to be achieved 

What are some of the common challenges facing women in Sudan? 

There are many challenges facing woman in Sudan — poverty , illiteracy, difficulties in reaching some health services, gender inequity and cultural barriers are all major challenges.  

How are you and your work with Ascend overcoming these challenges for women? 

We try our best to include women at every level of planning activities and in implementation. For example, through house to house visits to secure access to and deliver health services to all of them. 

We also ensure gender equity in the selection of volunteers in our various campaigns, empowering them to take lead positions and improving their health education through health promotion activities and taking their feedback into account. 


REHAM HASSAN — FINANCE OFFICER 

What do you lead on?

My role as a finance officer involves providing financial and administrative support to colleagues and the stakeholders we work with. It also involves taking the lead on agreements and evaluation of external suppliers for more effective provision of goods and services. 

What are the priorities of the programme?  

To deliver services in a cost-effective manner to contribute to the overall goal of sustainability for NTD services.  

What are some of the common challenges facing women in Sudan?  

Challenges facing women in Sudan revolve around stereotypes of women and what they should be doing based on their nature. This means looking after house chores rather than pursuing a career.  

Another big challenge is cultural barriers. In some cultures, women are only entitled to be doing specific tasks and men are always seen to be dominant.  Moreover, women are always judged by their external appearance and if it doesn’t match that of the community they represent, then they will never be taken seriously. 

How you and your work with Ascend is overcoming these challenges for women? 

try to ensure that suppliers of equal gender are assessed for any post and that the final choice is always based on specific expertise and criteria rather than the gender of the person. I also try to show that women can be very successful in positions of accountability and transparency. 


ASAWER ABDEEN — HEALTH POLICY AND STRATEGY OFFICER AND SAFEGUARDING FOCAL PERSON  

What do you lead on?

I meet with various stakeholders and ministry officials, and design advocacy strategies for various audiences. I also lead on the planning and analysis of grounds for strategies, management of programs and writing reports. 

My role of safeguarding focal person involved receiving complaints from beneficiaries on safeguarding concerns and to lay the foundations of a complaints feedback and response mechanism.  

What are the priorities of the programme? 

Our priorities are to support and strengthen the NTD programme in Sudan and deliver NTD services to all endemic populations — paving routes towards their control and elimination. To enable this, we are employing integrative and collaborative efforts with government ministries and have a priority to leave no one behind. 

What are some of the common challenges facing women in Sudan? 

The most common challenges for women are equality, equity, gender bias, stereotypes and cultural constraints.

How does being a woman help you in your role? 

From a policy perspective, Shirley Chisholm said: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.  

This is the case with policy — you might not always be heard, but as a womanit’s the perfect grounds for your unique traits of understanding, wisdom, assertiveness and comprehensiveness to be expressed to foster a response.  

And as a safeguarding focal person, I empower more females to report and call out abuse or discomfort because I am a woman like the respondent. It’s an indirect reassurance of a woman’s right to report and that their voice will always be heard.  

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? 

It’s hard not to acknowledge a day to appreciate and empower women, who are capable of creating, nurturing and transforming people and the worldIt’s a constant reminder that women can do a lot more than they realise, and they shouldn’t let anyone place boundaries on their dreams 

But it should not be a single day. We should have it a daily alarm, a reminder that you are beautiful regardless of your skin tone, your ethnicity or your background. A reminder that a beautiful mind and soul is even more breathtaking than a beautiful appearance. A reminder to always have a deep dive into your soul and reform your perceptions and work hard to achieve your goals. 


 

The UKAid funded Ascend programme in Nepal (Lot 1) is managed by a consortium of Crown Agents, Oriole Global Health, ABT Associates and KIT Tropical Institute