Born one of six in Shendi, Sudan, Ruaa Ahmed was a quiet, unassuming girl.
“Whenever guests would come over, I would refuse to say ‘hi’,” Ruaa says. “But by the time they left, I would have grown so close to them that I would demand that they take me with them.”
Ruaa’s empathy carries over to her current work as the Head of the Clinical Governance Department of the Patient Safety Directorate at the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan.
Ruaa was drawn to public health after observing firsthand the risks to patients in the country.
“Patients used to visit dental clinics with a tooth infection and leave with AIDS because the instruments weren’t sterilized,” Ruaa says. “I wanted to ensure that those people, that all people, were protected.”
Ruaa sees particular promise in the country’s young leaders and their vision for the future.
“The revolution was a youth-led one,” Ruaa says. “Many of the protestors were 15 to 30 years old and believed, simply, that they deserved better than this.”
Among the central challenges facing the youth include high unemployment and limited access to information, both about party leaders and about civil society on the whole.
Moving the needle on these issues starts, as Ruaa explains, with civic engagement.
“I encourage all the young people I meet to get involved in their communities, to volunteer,” Ruaa says. “See what your community needs and start working on that even if it’s not directly connected to your job.”
Equally important for Ruaa is creating a culture of accountability and understanding among her peers.
“We need to hold each other accountable,” Ruaa says. “We need to be each other’s keepers.”
“And we need room for understanding even if we don’t agree.”
One of the most productive discussions Ruaa had during a recent sit-in was a casual conversation with youth from different political parties.
What made the discussion a fruitful one, Ruaa explains, was a kind of empathy.
“There is more to people than what meets the eye,” Ruaa says. “What I learned in those discussions is that if you’re different from me, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person and I’m a good person, there’s always a story I can’t see.”
As Ruaa explains, that kind of understanding is only achieved when young leaders come together in spite of their political leanings to talk about their shared vision for the country.
“We realized in our discussions that we all wanted the country’s prosperity, we all wanted a New Sudan,” Ruaa says.
“For us, that’s a Sudan where there is equality and justice; it is a place where we have room to grow.”
Interested in Ruaa’s work? Learn how you can encourage civic participation through elections and social responsibility on our #YALIVotes page.