Interview Yusra Suleiman al Toum
Special thanks to Albert González Farran, UNAMID.
Let’s say that you are a politician with the power to change your country. What would you do for the children and youth?
I don’t want to be a politician! (giggles)
Let’s just imagine…
Ok then. In this hypothetic case, I would establish Internet cafes in the villages to give children access to computers. I would also open libraries and clubs, organize debates… We need more implication of the children in society and many more activities for them. There should be more opportunities such as capacity building programs and the children should have hobbies and upgrade their skills during their free time. They have too much spare time and this is a real problem in Darfur.
Why is it so problematic?
Because many common offenses in Darfur are committed by youth during their spare time. We need to fill it immediately with actions that can build a better future. Children and young generations in Darfur shouldn’t look to the present, but to the future.
What do you do in your spare time?
During the school breaks, between lessons, the organizations I am part of usually conduct activities for all the students, such as meetings and debates with external lecturers. After the school, I try to review my lessons at home. But I don’t go bed too late… I normally go at eight o’clock.
At eight ???
Yes. It is because I wake up very early, by five o’clock in the morning, to do my prayers and prepare my classes.
As a member of the Students Union, are you working on the improvement of your generation?
We take care of improvements that the school may need, as painting the walls and fixing damages, and if there are any clashes among the students, we also try to solve them.
Are there many differences in opportunities between girls and boys in Darfur?
There are, but not too many. In primary and secondary schools, both girls and boys have the same opportunities, except in sports. We need more facilities on this. Also at the university, there are some faculties in Sudan that are banned for women.
You want to become a journalist. Is that your way to improve society?
Journalism is the key to making my reality visible; not only the problems of my generation, but also the good things in Darfur. I would like to reflect the good talent that young Darfuris have. They are ambitious, willing to help themselves and their families, but the problem is that they lack awareness.
Darfur is often on the news, anyway.
Yes, but unfortunately the international media is more interested in giving a negative image of Darfur, talking only about the conflict, the killings and the destruction. There are many positive things about my land that should also be publicized.
I swear that Darfur is the most beautiful area in the world. This is the land of very kind and sensitive artists, the land of the Koran, with a rich past of kingdoms and a bright future. The only black spot of Darfur is the current war. If we manage to clean it, our history will be great.
But I am sure that if you had the opportunity to study abroad, in Europe or America, you would go, wouldn’t you?
Yes, I would. In Darfur we have fewer possibilities to develop ourselves than those in other parts of the world, especially in the education field. To some extent, the school environment is not conducive to success. We don’t have libraries and there is a lack of teachers, both in quantity and quality. If I have the chance to study abroad, I will not miss it. But I am also convinced that, after my education, I will return to serve my country with my new skills.
How do you think Darfur could develop faster?
Without the conflict. First of all, our society should find the way to eradicate the conflict. The people of Darfur have to stop the war, cease tribal clashes and collect the arms from all sides. Peace will bring development. This is the only way.
Do you also include this concept in your poems?
Some of my poems talk about Peace and how to find it. People in Darfur should put aside sorrow and grieves and live for the fine arts!
The international community has a huge presence in Sudan, especially in Darfur due to the conflict. Is this presence positive?
Indeed. We are much better now with the presence of peacekeepers, UN agencies and NGOs than eight years ago, when the conflict started. This is more than evident. The international community is playing a crucial role in this conflict.
Let’s travel to the future. We are in 2030. How do you see your country?
Much, much better. Peace in Darfur will have arrived, there will be no camps for displaced families and the landscape will look really beautiful. There will be freedom, the region will not claim that is marginalized anymore and all tribes will share the joy of living in peace.
But… what about you? How do you see yourself in 20 years time?
I will be married with many children, sons and daughters, but it will not stop me from continuing my professional career as a journalist, trying to solve the problems of young people. I want to do my job and take care of my family at the same time. I definitely want to become a working mother.
You can watch the full interview here.
© Albert González Farran - UNAMID