Kamilia Kura: Relentless in Empowering Displaced Women
Kamilia Kura is a community leader and a mother. She is a human rights defender, a devoted Christian and a brave woman with a loving heart. She has chosen to stand by the vulnerable since she was a teenager.
Kamilia is the founder and Executive director of Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA). She dreams about a Sudan that respects the diversity of its own people. She hopes for people to live in peace and dignity and to be treated as Sudanese citizens not according to their ethnic, religious, regional and gender identities. She says “I want the old days of Sudan to revive; when people were just Sudanese”
She was born on 1969 to Christian parents in Kadugli; the capital of South Kordofan state. Kamilia’s father decided to sell his flock of cows and move to Khartoum seeking a better life for his family. They migrated to Khartoum when she was an infant. She was raised in the church and volunteered to teach at Sunday schools since she was 14 years old.
Kamilia kept her eyes on attending the university and not have the same fate that most of her peers face; getting married and have children before reaching high school. Her family was willing to get her married soon after she graduated from intermediate school. The bishop Butrus Kura; her uncle and role model saved her by demanding that her father allow her to attend high school. The Bishop Butrus was supporting girls’ education; he advised many families which came to the church to allow their girls to attend high school, and many husbands to allow their wives to attend the university.
Kamilia is keeping her uncle’s favor and wishes all the girls could access higher education. She got married after high school and moved to Nigeria with her husband where she got a diploma on community psychosocial intervention from Saint Jose State University on 1996.
On 1997, Kamilia was back to Sudan while the civil war in the south was raging between the government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army Movement. Hundreds of thousands of displaced persons were arriving in Khartoum. She talked to her friend Fatima Sulieman "We need to do something for our mothers and sisters who escaped the war to Khartoum" Along with one of the church elders; they have mobilized people to join them, conducted meetings, collected donations and provided humanitarian relief. On 2002, the group was registered as a nonprofit organization under the name Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA) to access grants that maintain the sustainability of their services and widen their community outreach. It kept growing and its mandate extended beyond providing humanitarian assistance to advocating for women’s rights, peace, building the capacities of women and youth through education, training on development related issues and awareness raising.
Threats by government security agents have always accompanied the work of Kamilia as a leader of a non-registered group and as an executive director of NuWEDA. Community based initiatives in the 1990’s were very limited; additionally most of the IDPs were coming from the war zones in South Sudan, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. The authorities in Khartoum regard them as rebels and spies and everybody who helps them as having a relation to the rebel groups. Till now the authorities are not keeping good intentions in the work of national civil society and Kamilia is subjected regularly to harassment and interrogations.
Changing social norms that violate women's rights, such as domestic violence and lack of women’s control over their bodies, is the challenge that NuWEDA has taken on. Kamilia was labeled by conservative men in displaced communities for spreading immoralities through educating women about family planning and inciting them against domestic violence.
Girls’ and women’s education is NuWEDA’s missing key to empowering and securing women lives and well being through offering them better job opportunities, and a better life with choices. While NuWEDA is raising the community awareness by girls' education, public higher education is so expensive for most of the displaced families which are struggling with earning the daily living. NuWEDA is willing to run a program for sponsoring displaced women and girls’ university education. They have been seeking funds for this program for the past 5 years, although they couldn’t receive enough funds for the program launch.
In June, 2011, the civil war broke out again in South Kordofan region between the government and Sudan People’s Liberation Army/North. Bombardments of Kadugli and more than 40 towns, limited access to food, high incidents of rape by government militias, arbitrary arrests and forced military recruitment of women has made life terrible for families and forced 300,000-400,000 persons either to flee to Khartoum or seek refuge in South Sudan. Displaced families are living in poverty and women are heading the households. The majority has limited professional skills which leave them with limited and highly competitive employment opportunities like domestic work. There is no legislation protecting the rights of domestic workers by defining minimum wage, working hours, leaves and end of service benefits. NuWEDA is coordinating an economic empowerment program with other civil society organizations with the purpose of organizing displaced women in cooperatives to advance their economic status through savings, acquaint them with small business skills, improve their access to loans and form a sort of informal trade union.
Kamilia believes in empowering women to advance the status of displaced communities; her vision drove the formation of NuWEDA. The people’s needs for assistance have inspired her to form a group of volunteers, and then build a nonprofit organization. She finds the motive and legitimacy of her work from the people she serves.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous digital media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.