small steps

May 13, 2013

Active Citizens, the British Council programme I’ve been documenting, recently took me to Gedaref and Kassala, in the east of Sudan.

There, Active Citizens has been used to train communities on how to design and implement their own ‘social action’ projects.

These include tree planting programmes; gas canister rental schemes; renovation of youth centres; installation of improved water tank technology; and health and FGM (female genital mutilation) awareness classes.

If approved by the British Council, all projects will receive €2,000 seed funding.

The idea is that by engaging people in changing where they live, development becomes more sustainable, participation increases, and civil society is strengthened.

We visited Aroma, a town on the outskirts of the eastern state of Kassala, where 30 people have received Active Citizens training.

There I interviewed participant Fatma Mohamed Ali, 27, a widowed mother-of-two and student.

So if we can just start by asking you how old you are and what your name is and what you do?

Fatma Mohamed Ali, 27 years old. I studied until high school, the third grade, then got married…. have two children, Mohamed and Rayan, their dad died and I went back to university. I actually went back before he died. I started the first year but right now I’m doing my fourth level, studying education, at the chemistry and biology department, the University of Kassala.

What motivated you to get involved in Active Citizens?

I want to help the society…know more about its problems and be able to solve some of those problems.

What do you feel are the major issues facing young women in Aroma?

Well, education is a very important issue…most mothers are illiterate….some children do not go to schools because of customs and traditions. The first solution I suggest is to make people aware of the importance of education so we have more schools and that will help solve two problems: the unemployment of the graduates so they can get jobs and the problem of education in general.

What would you really like to be able to use? What are the real important changes you’d like to see happen?

The first thing is the social solidarity…I mean we have known each other before but not closely. People need to learn a way to communicate and understand each other. We need to connect the international citizenship with the local one, for example, by visiting each other so we know about each others customs and traditions and then take the best from each other.

Have you faced any problems participating in the Active Citizens programme?

No, I haven’t faced any problems.

How do you feel that it has benefited you personally in terms of the future?

Well, I will be able to offer something to society and be effective, and know how to run small projects and search for projects that would develop the whole society.