Buthyna Adam Abdallah and Hisham Aldin GreebAllah are practitioners working with Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in the Gedaref (or Al Qadarif) state of Sudan. Buthyna is a teacher and is associated with the Ministry of Education in Gedaref. Next to teaching, she is part of the Ma’an Civil Society Network, an association of nine civil society organisations working on different subjects, including women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities. She is responsible for training and capacity building within the network and now and now represents the Ma’an Network within the We Are Able’s Training of Trainers (ToT) programme
Hisham is the head of the People with Disability Union in Gedaref and is a financial officer at the City of Gedaref municipality. Active within the city, Hisham is a prominent activist at the national and local levels within the disability movement, and was involved with the We Are Able! programme from its inception in Sudan. Hisham has long been a trainer for the programme, working with fellow practitioners and persons with disabilities alike.
“The ToT training is only one of the many activities I do together with We are Able! and it helps me to reinforce all other aspects of my work”.
Having completed the training of trainers with The Hague Academy, we sat down with both Buthyna and Hisham to discuss their work, the ongoing challenges they face in Gedaref and their ambitions for the near future.
Knowing How to Approach Inclusive Decision-Making
By engaging both local authorities and organisations for people with disabilities, Hisham and Buthyna aim for a holistic approach that engages mainstreaming disability inclusion at multiple levels. Importantly, they say, is to establish a better understanding of identifying needs among persons with disabilities and how to approach and address them in their local contexts. As Buthyna explains: “I have already started adding the concept of social exclusion and the different dimensions of exclusion to my training package. Understanding these dimensions of exclusion, and the barriers we put in place will help people with disabilities identify them and address them better”.
As Hisham continues, “The first step of inclusive decision-making is equal access to information for everyone. Therefore, information sharing on what decision-making processes exist and devising strategies on how to engage them have become essential parts of their training within the Ma’an network”.
“Organisations for people with disabilities themselves need to have a greater understanding of their role within the decision-making system and need to take a pro-active stance in providing solutions and see those incorporated in the agendas,” explains Hashim, who highlights the importance of reaching across the board to not only find allies in their mission but also to raise cross-cutting issues that affect communities as a whole, aiming for general well-being.
Buthyna ends by emphasising the cross-cutting approach they take to information sharing and strategy, saying that “lastly, we should note that the level of awareness in the different communities varies greatly. Working with local champions at the community level will ensure people are incorporated into the We are Able! family and can grow their influence”.
In addition to the challenges they face in dismantling a lack of information and prejudice, as well as trying to galvanise political action, Buthyna and Hisham face challenges unique to their context. Gedaref, in the relatively agrarian southeast corner of Sudan, has experienced localised conflict, regular floods, and various waves of refugees from internal and international war. As recently as 2021, skirmishes occurred between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Ethiopian National Defence over long-held border disputes. The 2022 Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview estimated that 645,000 people in Gedaref need humanitarian assistance.
Buthyna and Hisham identify the volatile nature of their state government as a continuous challenge in their work. A lack of institutional stability means that those in charge are often replaced, making it difficult to establish long-term relationships and projects. The agrarian nature of Geladef also proves as a challenge, as many communities focus almost exclusively on agriculture for sustenance during the rainy seasons from mid-July to mid-October, with many areas also left untraversable due to rain, mud, and flooding.
Despite these challenges, Buthyna and Hisham remain hopeful that they can continue to reach out and help activate the potential of local community leaders. Through their training initiatives, they are working tirelessly to establish the groundwork for greater community action down the road, working with organisations and local leaders to expand their action potential.
In five years, they aim to have a responsive local government to the needs of people with disabilities, supported by civil society organisations with the capacity and know-how to mainstream their needs. As Hisham summarises, “We expect that the ToT programme will continue to improve our skills by working with us and continuously supporting our activities. Learning goes two ways, and the trainees will also learn a lot from the local communities and exchange with them on possible solutions. I for one will teach others and will want to learn from the communities on their issues”.
Learn more about We Are Able!
Find out more about the We Are Able! Programme.