Balghis Badri: I have a dream to do something in the name of my late father; something that is creative and that would carry his name because he was a person with vision and creativity
Dr. Balghis Badri , how would you best describe yourself? What is your most valued contribution to Sudan?
I see myself primarily as an activist both in political and in women and affairs.
My contributions to Sudan have been focused in three major issues:
1) The introduction of women and gender related studies in our curriculums whether at the undergraduate or the post graduate levels since 1979.
2) My engagement in the Eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) campaign and the development of rural women which also started in 1979. In this same year, we also succeeded in establishing the Babkier Badri Association where I was first appointed as Vice President of the association. The experience of leading an association which carries the name of Babiker Badri was in its self a challenging one given the burden of it. I am proud to say that for the past 12 years there are others who have taken on their shoulders to spearhead this organization and not just myself.
3) Working on the “Quota” issue-as I consider myself as a leader in this regard i.e. the enhancement of women representation in different sectors : executive levels, service levels , legislative , judiciary levels and in political parties. However the call came true only on the electoral level as a result of continuous efforts exerted by myself and other women activists.
Other areas of activism which I worked in included carrying out work in political parties on issues that are not focused solely on women empowerment. I wanted to show that women are not only good for women issues but are fairly capable of finding solutions to political affairs.
I have also worked on several issues such as peace, constitution and the electoral law. I reviewed the constitution and helped develop recommendations for reforming our 2005 constitution and reform our 2008 electoral law. Regarding the issue of peace, I was one of the initiators of the Sudanese Women Peace group SEWP and I have previously expressed concern that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) should not distribute resources between the North and South Sudan only but rather the distribution should be made on a sector basis across the country. I have also made several recommendations to the Doha agreement calling for it to be revisited again given the problems inherent within it.
Another focus area which I have worked in is in Education and the need to provide quality education that is accessible to all. Unfortunately however this issue was not properly taken up. I usually initiate things it but I need others to follow up on it and implement it.
I really feel sad about the issue of general education in Sudan and I feel that it is my unrealized dream. If I live for another 15 years, I would give my upmost attention to this the issue of education given the current deterioration in it. There is huge injustice with regards to the opportunities available to those in need. I wish to be remembered best for working on the general education and reforming it.
What about the Challenges in Sudan?
The basic challenge existing in Sudan today is that there are a few people with good capacity still available in the country. The majorities have already left and there is huge brain drain. The remaining few who are inside Sudan are overwhelmed with what they have and their hands are full and can hardly take up any new things.
The other challenge is the international community, because of the political context in Sudan, the international community does not offer developmental support for Sudan as it did in the past and accordingly we became a bit away from any activities related to promoting basic rights and services, health education etc…
Developmental work in Sudan should be an integrated package which includes a social development component to it with special focus on the issue of women rights, democracy etc… but if you only focus on these things whilst the people are still poor and lacking the basic services and rights, then it would be as if you are working on something that does not relate to them. This is why I think the real impact is lower at the grassroots level people. It wasn’t fruitful because it did not address the real needs of the people.
One of the things I miss most is not working in direct connection with today’s youth due to the current political situation where a number of these youth are considered to be “activists”. I now work with them on capacity building but I do not feel that this is sufficient. I am now approaching 67, one would have loved to establish something like a “Balgis forum” where I would pass on my knowledge to others and it would be a link between generations.
I have a dream to do something in the name of my late father; something that is creative and that would carry his name because he was a person with vision and creativity. One day maybe this dream might come true. You see, when I recall that my grandfather Babkier Badri started the establishment of Ahfad at the age of 70 and that he lived till he was 96; this really fills me with a lot of motivation and makes me think that maybe there is still time to realize my dream. When you think about it though, the challenge which he faced back in the time does not measure up to any of the challenges which we face today.
On to opportunities then, I see that Sudan has a number of opportunities :
1) There is a substantial bulk of educated students and graduates in Sudan much more than there was in our times.
2) The current existence of all these communication tools which bridges the gap between continents and spaces especially amongst youth. There is not proper optimization of using this technology however, all the information which we have in our heads and in boos should be transferred into a digital format for online use.
I think the UN should pilot the information/ knowledge Management efforts all across Sudan by collecting all soft materials that are present in Sudan and placing it in databases. In addition, we can invest in having cheap cell phones to reach out to all regions in Sudan to collect and share the data as it done by certain organization as a support /help tool to reach out for help and assistance.
This proposed knowledge management platform which the UN should support has several dimensions 1) Collecting all soft material and making it digital. 2) Documentation of experiences i.e. asking people to jot down their stories. There are indeed very few people in Sudan who have written down their autobiographies- maybe only 3. It would be a great loss of have all these expertise gone with no documentation present. Even we in Ahfad have started documenting but there are some gaps to fill. A person like Mohajoub Mohamed Salih for example the famous editor in Chief of Al-Ayaam newspaper is someone whose account of our history should be documented. All these unions and association should be working on documenting. The Sudanese people themselves do not recognize the importance of documentation. They are so modest about their achievements that they rarely mention it. It’s a cultural thing; people hate to relay their achievements to others. In times like these however it is important to look up to role models in all sectors whether volunteers, academicians etc… Role models bring out dreams and imagination in use.
One of my dreams which I told Dr. Gasim about was to establish something called a Pioneer Museum which highlights achievements of different personas, athletics, businessmen, women etc… . It could be established in the old secondary school of Ahfad building where school children would visit and watch performances that makes them proud of their past . It would be nice to have something that resembles the History of Migration in Europe Museum in Germany.
How do you see Sudan in 2030 ?
Sudan is in a borderline , either we have peace and democracy then I could see it as flourishing and growing or if continues in this cycle of conflict and violation of human rights and absence of democracy then we are going to deteriorate to the extent that it is going to be further divided. There will be huge migration of all categories. If we miss out this opportunity then we miss out on Sudan. If we realize peace and democracy first we can then work on other developmental aspects - if not we loose on the entire country.