A blog by our very own Rania Amin for 500 words magazine reflecting on her thoughts for a future Sudan
Over the years, I have learnt to embrace myself as a person. My abilities, my ethnicity, my sexual orientation, etc. I have also learnt adaptability from experience and life challenges. I still struggle with a lot of ‘new to me’ things, but I always have to approach life challenges with the mindset that I can adapt, I can change and that nothing will actually kill me ‘other than death itself, surely’. For the benefit of my children, family and community around me, I must find the ability within myself to absorb any shocking events and embrace change. Shock is what worries us all. We get scared and react illogically!
The Sudanese revolution is happening. Political change is well underway, and it is only a matter of time before the current regime is ousted and gone down the drain of bad tasting history. The priority now is to plan our future and how we are going to shape it to our benefit as Sudanese for many generations to come.
However, over the past few weeks, I have seen social media posts from Sudanese people supporting the revolution and considering themselves as forward thinkers, but their posts and comments are a bit concerning for me.
So, today I’m writing about a wish. I wish for the Sudanese people to embrace the ‘Declaration of Freedom and Change‘, an article the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) published in January 2019. Besides the first goal of ousting President Omar Al Bashir and his regime, the article states ‘repealing of all laws restricting freedoms of speech and expression’. I immediately associated it with the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 introduced by Equality and Human Rights Commission:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
The above means you cannot discriminate against anyone based on those characteristics. Discrimination means treating a person unfairly because of who they are or because they possess certain characteristics (the above). When I first saw the declaration, I was overcome with joy. Finally, we have hope – not only politically but also socially and culturally. We have a chance at a dignified life where people will be able to seek employment, education, medical treatment and everything else freely and equally. It states that all freedom oppressing laws and regulations violating our right to live will be revoked. This is the declaration everyone protesting on the streets of Sudan should be supporting and embracing. It is a grand declaration which we need to implement.
A post that I am genuinely concerned about is one by Ahmed Umar. Joining the ‘White Toub’ movement, on 3 March 2019, Umar posted a picture on Facebook of himself wearing a white toub and donned in traditional Sudanese braids, accessories and facial marks. He said:
‘White March’ is a new way of peaceful demonstration meant to honour Sudanese women and stand against violence, oppression and violations against their rights. Sudanese women wear white traditional Toub in both street and online protests for the month of March. The fact that I’m genderfluid made it feel like a duty to join my sisters to stand together against inequality and violence.’
The post was met with widespread criticism and disapproval. I came across very negative comments from people whom I thought were revolutionists (defined as a person who advocates or takes part in a revolution, a sudden, complete or marked change in something). It is appalling.
Just a day before Umar’s Facbook post, I saw another Facebook post by a Sudanese woman and proud atheist, Nahla Algaali, who wrote about alternative options for women’s menstruation and body hair. Like with Umar, her post was met with criticism and disapproval. Their reactions are sadly not shocking from a patriarchal society but still worrying as we approach the era of revolution and democracy.
A lot of people will say that the priority is for the political change to take place. However, these are issues that affect the daily life of some members of the society, who have every right to live in their country just like everyone else. If we are unable to talk about societal issues and changes that are considered ‘taboo’, then how are we going to create a civil law country that will work for ALL Sudanese? We need to realise that we, like every other country in the world, come in all shapes, sizes, genders and religions (or the lack of them). We need to take all the nine protected characteristics into consideration. We need to take it up as a challenge, not to change people, but to embrace difference and work together for a better tomorrow.
Always remember, we are ALL humans.