Growing up in Khartoum in the 1990s, Reem Ahmed was especially curious about the world around her.
“I had to question everything before I did it,” Reem says. “I wanted to know, for instance, why we pray.”
Reem, who now works as a National Consultant for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Sudan, is helping young women across the country to chart a new course in a nation riddled with civil strife.
Today, on the heels of a power-sharing agreement between protestors and the military council, Sudan finds itself in a particularly precarious position, one in which women and the youth will play a pivotal role in ensuring its long-term stability, as Reem explains.
“Women made the revolution a successful one,” Reem says. “They collaborated; they decided to get together for their freedom.”
But women in Sudan still face structural disadvantages in the country, as Reem explains, among them, economic and social disempowerment.
“Women are still mistreated in Sudan,” Reem says. “They are treated as sex objects. They don’t have access to education. It’s time to focus on their political participation, on bringing them to the table.”
Reem’s latest work is doing just that, gathering women from across the country to define their shared aims for the country. Among the most pressing, as Reem explains, are gender equity and increased representation in the new government.
“At a protest in March, women came together from all areas of the country–artists, singers, doctors–to participate in this,” Reem says. “It was like a small country.”
“I met women who were harassed, even raped, at these protests and went back,” Reem says, “all because they have a message and believe in it.”
For those interested in civic engagement, Reem recommends an inclusive, proactive approach.
“I’ve shifted my perspective from just seeing issues in Sudan to understanding what I can do about them,” Reem says.
“Young women have a role to play in designing new ideas and structuring those ideas for change.”
More important still for Reem is representing the whole of the country in political dialogue.
“We need women from across Sudan at the table,” Reem says. “They are a part of our society, they are our leaders.”
As we parted ways, Reem mentioned one of her trips years ago to Egypt.
“I was twenty and was so excited to travel alone,” Reem says, “I felt unleashed from all constraints.”
That vibrancy, a kind of sparkle in her eye, radiates in Reem’s cautious optimism about the country.
“I have hope, but it’s a hope mixed with fear,” Reem says. “But I believe that women will continue their resistance. They have tasted freedom; they know what it feels like to be free.”
Interested in Reem’s work? Learn how you can support the rights of women and girls on our Africa4Her page.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.