Ishraga's Story of Triumph
Dr. MUSTAFA, 48, Sudanese- born and an Austrian national, is a Consultant for (Lefoe-IBF) and a founding member of the "Black Women's Community for Self-Help and Peace, both based in Austria. She is a mother, journalist, blogger, poet, writer, lecturer, researcher, activist, and environmentalist.
In brief, she is a pioneering woman in every aspect. "Guaranteeing freedom of thought in a way that prepares the public to expand the scope of their horizons beyond their small geographical barriers, is a goal that I will never give up," she said stating her views to the "World Pulse" website, through the yahoo chat messenger from Vienna.
Besides writing articles in local and international newspapers and websites and participation in conferences and projects, she has given more than 205 lectures and workshops on topics of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Reproductive Health, and war and conflict in Africa.
Her doctoral title emphasizes the culmination of her academic struggle. Her thesis entitled "Towards Emancipation, Empowerment Processes among Black Women in Vienna" was awarded two prizes, as well as the (Herta Pammer Award) of the Catholic Women's Movement in recognition for her work with women.
In Vienna, as a poor higher-studies student who barely was able to feed herself, she was motivated to carry out the first study in Austrian history on migrant women in Austria. Her study drew attention to the economic and social situations of these women and specifically highlighted the problems facing them.
She also worked as a researcher in Gender Studies utilizing her excellent command of German. In addition, she has prepared valuable research studies while completing an internship. But behind these achievements which are internationally recognized, there is story of a woman’s fierce fight for her rights as a human being where she succeeded in becoming what she is today.
Her arduous journey begun in Sudan in 1985 continued throughout Austria. She came to Austria in 1993. "I sold tea and food to fund my education. I also worked as a housekeeper and a cleaner in a restaurant where I had to pull the garbage trolley for a long distance to earn my bread. That was painful because I was pregnant," she said to the "World Pulse".
The very same building where she once worked as a cleaner, dragging her swollen feet at the end of the day to the metro station, was the same building that witnessed the joyful rhythm of her steps running along the stairs where she gave her lectures. She was not shy to add, "I had to knock and knock and knock on closed doors."
Ishraga believes that the role of an intellectual in a society is to generate knowledge that fulfills the needs of human dignity. Throughout her life, she grasped the rare opportunities that came her way and made the utmost of them.
The course of events in her life took an unexpected turn when she brought her communist political activities to the premises of the strong-hold of the Islamic University. Going public with her views put an end to her dreams and she suffered job elimination, marginalization and was pushed to migrate.
Dr. Mustafa was born in 1961 in Kosti in Central Sudan and grew up in a rural, poor, big extended family. She finished primary and secondary education there and studied Communication and Journalism. The people in her town still remember that, under the umbrella of the Sudanese Women’s Union in Kosti town, she was the first to introduce literacy programs for women prisoners at a time when woman not only feared approaching the wall of the jail, but feared that would do harm to their family.
As a member of the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society (SECS), she produced a weekly radio series entitled "Human Beings and the Environment", aiming at raising environmental awareness. This program that she piloted in 1991is still broadcasted under another name.
Her high academic title and the glow of her new environment didn't make her turn a blind eye on the suffering of women in her homeland where they struggle to raise health awareness and remove illiteracy among them. She helped in rehabilitating and extending the building of two schools. Dr Mustafa also established a center for rural development at the outskirts of Khartoum benefiting 8 villages and she has helped educate 48 women and the number is on the rise.
Moreover, in collaboration with three others, Ishraga founded, the Nile-Danube Organization for the Culture of Peace, which held its first conference in 2005. 100 Sudanese women participated from more than 15 countries including rural marginalized women.
For the first time in the history of Sudanese voluntary work, Mrs. Sandaliya Sheikh, a dedicated volunteer and social worker representing marginalized women from the Blue Nile, South East Sudan, could bring difficulties facing this segment into the international focus. The hall conference echoed back her strong voice.
Mohamed Ahmed Al Feelaby, a reporter and environmental activist in Khartoum, talked about the effect of Ishraga on young environmentalists. "Ishraga has an invisible great effect on them. She represents a model for many to follow in overcoming difficulties of life, and rush towards voluntary work to insure a healthier environment."
Ishraga is a member of numerous NGO organizations as well as the Austrian Writers Union. She published her first poem collection (However, I Will Sing) in 2002.
She is a divorcee and the mother of 2 toddlers; a boy and a girl.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.