Artwork by Amanda @eyes.on.sudan. Design by Laura Vergara

Keeping Eyes, Hearts, and Action on Sudan

Purposeful
7 min readApr 16, 2024

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By Purposeful and the Global Resilience Fund team

Arabic translation linked here

This week is a devastating marker. It is now one full year since this phase of deadly war in Sudan erupted — one year of targeted ethnic cleansing, one year of genocide, one year that has resulted in acute hunger and lack of healthcare on a catastrophic scale, and one year that has seen the forced displacement of nearly 11 million people.

All systems have collapsed. Sudan has been plunged into the worst humanitarian crisis the world has ever known.

Its roots stretch back to decades of militarised state violence, intertwined with the legacies of systemic injustices, imperialism, and capitalism. And yet, you’d need to look hard for accurate documentation and visibility in global media, and search well beyond mainstream column inches to read these truths. The inertia of global attention and international humanitarian aid to Sudan is laid bare.

“There is a way in which black deaths of people across the horn of Africa, are normalised and wars are naturalised. As a result, only 3.6% of the $3 billion necessary has reached the country to launch the kind of robust relief efforts needed.” - Dr. Nisrin Elamin, Sudan Solidarity Collective

And it’s six months since the Black Feminist Fund charted the country’s collapse and the woeful inaction of the international community for the grassroots efforts needed for “people-led change:”

“The racialised and gendered biases of philanthropy are on display in full force. The Sudanese people are being largely ignored by philanthropy because philanthropy normalises Africa as a continent of war and disease. African deaths matter less.” — Hakima Abbas, Black Feminist Fund in Alliance, November 2023

Against this backdrop, with the largest number of displaced children in the world, and in this dire situation for girls and women, who know all too well what their bodies suffer on the frontlines of war and multiple crises, the year of violence has seen them mobilise with little or no support, and like never before. Time and time again, girls and women, in shared struggle and with a feminist politic rooted in love, show that they will not be crushed.

Just as, in shared political commitment, it was young women who led the Sudanese revolution in 2019 that called for full civilian rule and deposed its long-held dictatorship, it is girls and young feminists again, in the full atrocity of this moment, who are leading on the frontlines, who in the lack of formalised social security and safety, are constructing their own networks of care. Dr Nisrin shares further;

“In the face of absence from the international aid community and state, they are leading distribution efforts, organising communal kitchens, driving ambulances, coordinating the setting up of clinics and rape crisis centres, converting schools into shelters, and retrieving and burying dead bodies.”

In the IJSC report last month, The Active but Underfunded Role Young Women and Girls Play in Crises, the data couldn’t be starker, revealing the consistent underfunding of girls and women — in fact they are barely given a mention. Women’s rights organisations and institutions received just 0.34% of total global aid flows in 2022, and in many countries in crisis, even less.

Despite the undeniable response efforts young women have led not only this past year but also since the revolution in 2019 during the negotiations for a transitional process, their leadership, demands, and representation in a civil government were and remain systematically ignored.

Rooted in the deep truth about the simultaneity of girls’ and young feminist activists’ power and vulnerability, Purposeful and The Global Resilience Fund (GRF) instead, take their lead from girls and young feminists, and with the guidance and insights of a team of young feminist advisors in every continent, move urgent response grants and sustained resources to girls and young women in humanitarian crises.

“Unfortunately, the critical role played by grassroots organisations, including young feminists, women, and gender nonconforming people, in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Sudan remains largely undocumented and untraceable. These initiatives often operate under the radar, relying on personal networks and community connections to carry out their essential work.” — Doha Ali

Instrumental to identifying and supporting these initiatives, to raising awareness and strategising round the clock with the GRF in Sudan, is Aya Elzein, an 19-year-old Sudanese activist, and Purposeful advisor who has been making a significant impact in civil society efforts since the age of 14. Together, she and the team draw activists, collectives, and groups in vital learning conversations over WhatsApp to inform how and where to support the grantee partners on the ground and move urgent resources across the country.

Conversations underpin the knowledge that girls and young feminists, displaced or living in exile, are organising tirelessly to creatively respond to meet urgent needs. In discussion, they count on each other, and they share the experiences of the current situation and their feminist response efforts. As the team renews urgent grants to Sudanese young feminist groups and collectives this month, they listen to learn how best to respond to early signals to activate in crisis, and to document so their voices and demands for solidarity and change can shout through the corridors of power.

“It has been proven that the best way to tackle issues is not for the people but by the people, as no one is fully aware and knowledgeable of the situation on the ground, like the people most affected by it.” — Aya Elzein

In conversations this past month, we hear how Sudanese young feminist groups and collectives are facilitating informal safe spaces, building rapid psychosocial support networks, and providing direct humanitarian aid for each other of food, water and sanitation.

One group shares of the dire situation in Northern states, witnessing numerous casualties, incidents of sexual violence, and the collapse of essential institutions and the grappling with the loss of livelihoods, shortages of medicine, and limited access to aid. Another shares of the constant fire exchange between army forces and the Rapid Support Forces that’s; “random and indifferent to civilians…making it life threatening for people to go about their lives…a tonne of looting and stealing, leaving a shortage of medical gear, flour and sugar.”

They share how humanitarian aid gets through Port Sudan but is moved in such insignificant quantities, of the inflated prices, of the increase in violence when digital money transfer systems go down, of scarce medical supplies, and of the lifeline of grassroots efforts from public and civil society groups.

And they share the critical impact on girls and women.

“There’s been a rise in post-war domestic violence, including instances of rape, even within shelters. Unfortunately, rather than being protected, some victims face further abuse from police officers who misuse their power….Furthermore, there’s been a rise in violence, with new forms such as trafficking of women emerging, particularly in regions like Darfur.”

“Shelters are either controlled by security agencies or civilian entities claiming to maintain security against potential threats from sleeper cells, possibly affiliated with rapid support forces, based on tribal, racial, or ethnic divisions. There’s a notable presence of Sudanese army forces deployed across the Northern State, contributing to a highly militarised environment.”

With escalating needs and challenges, and working under extreme stress, groups are working to not be outpaced by emergency levels. GRF urgent response grants being currently renewed, will resource everything from sanitary pads, and hygiene kits to supporting access to reproductive health services, emergency rooms for maternal and neonatal needs, and the provision of support groups, legal support and protection, documentation of rape cases, and youth initiatives in shelters.

Now is not the time for international solidarity statements that condemn and do nothing, this is about direct action and active participation, directly resourcing the resistance efforts of girls and young feminists, and accompanying them in determining their own roadmaps to safety and freedom.

We will continue to move money and resources to girls and young feminists, we’ll continue to listen and amplify, and we will do more, and better. Our resources are a drop in the ocean, the devastation in this one year will take a generation to heal. We call upon governments, funders, philanthropists and the international community, to support the direct demands of Sudanese feminist activists to provide long-term grassroots funding, to allow them a meaningful contribution that matches the weight and burden they endure, and to move adequate and unrestricted resources, where humanitarian systems have been too slow, to those holding critical roles in moving money to groups on the ground.

Our shared humanity, feminism, and commitment to the world we dream of demands our collective efforts. We must keep our eyes, hearts, and actions focused on Sudan.

#KeepEyesOnSudan

#OurStrugglesAreConnected

If you are in Canada, you can sign on to the Sudan Solidarity Collective’s Open Letter on Canada’s Immigration Policy for People Affected by the Conflict in Sudan

Listen to our Instagram Live from 16 April 2024, with Dr Nisrin Elamin of Sudan Solidarity Collective & Purposeful’s Sandie Hanna on what it means to show up in solidarity, draw connections beyond borders, and learn so it becomes personal.

To find out more about the Global Resilience Fund visit: https://www.theglobalresiliencefund.org/

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Purposeful

A feminist movement-building hub that amplifies girls’ voices, resources their resistance, builds solidarity and catalyses collaborative philanthropy.