Sudan’s youth are a force for change. Before the 2019 revolution they were described as Ataala (unemployed), now they are Amal Bokra (the hope of tomorrow).
But the challenges they face are significant. Youth unemployment languishes at 31%, double the national average. Conflict and poverty impede peace and development. Despite this, Sudan’s youth are tackling daunting challenges like COVID-19, climate change, extremism, and human rights.
The next generation’s leaders, they are uniquely placed to drive change and a critical task: reshaping Sudan. To realize this potential they simply require support, the tools, and their globally recognized determination.
Alongside Government agencies and local NGOs, UNDP Sudan supports this increasingly empowered, dynamic demographic as they transform their nation. While the task is considerable, the roles youth already play in institutions, governance, peacebuilding, socioeconomic transformation, climate protection and other areas are vast.
1. Identifying the next generation of Sudan’s female political leaders
40% of Sudan’s new parliamentary seats are allocated to women, bringing new representation and new voices, and contributing to more responsive and accountable institutions.
Supporting this opportunity, an early 2020 UNDP-funded exercise to promote political participation visited 110 locations and identified 1,070 potential female candidates — two-thirds aged 40 or under.
One of the many young women was Roaa Bakri Bilal (pictured above), a women’s rights activist and political hopeful from North Khartoum.
“As Sudanese women and girls we have been absent,” Roaa says. “This is the way we are raised. In a traditional society we feel politics is not for us. All the time we think and feel this, that this is for men. I knew something needs to be done. So, I thought, I will try.”
While the work is only beginning for young leaders like Roaa, who remain potential candidates until the Transitional Legislative Council is formed, the opportunities are already brighter.
This project was made possible with UNDP core funding, provided by a number of contributing nations, and was carried out by Sudanese NGO’s Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Groups (MANSAM), and the Sudanese Organization for Research and Development (SORD).
2. Supporting youth tackling the threat of COVID-19
The danger posed by COVID-19 in Sudan is immense. Seeking to reduce this risk and protect health, young community advocates and volunteers have mobilized.
Equipped with sanitizer, masks, megaphones (for physically distant briefings), flyers and social media content, they are delivering essential supplies and advice with UNDP and local partner support.
One of many youth fighting COVID-19 in their communities is Suleiman Adam Omar (pictured above), a university student and local resistance committee member from Khartoum’s impoverished Mayo area. Promoting awareness and distributing supplies, Suleiman stresses the impact of these efforts:
“This work is important because it is a global outbreak… the behaviors have changed greatly in many recipients, and many young people have stopped gathering in clubs and with tea ladies. My family and I only go out for important necessities.”
As part of UNDP Sudan’s COVID-19 response, rapid support has been provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Governments of Norway and the Netherlands, the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and Italian Development Cooperation. Additionally, UNAMID’s State Liaison Function (SLF) has contributed to COVID-19 responses in Darfur.
3. Creating employment for young people in Darfur
Economic stagnation, inter-group tension, and resource clashes mean more than 40% of Darfur’s youth are jobless, with limited prospects and uncertain — often risky — futures.
Addressing this challenge as part of socioeconomic renewal, UNDP tailors entrepreneur and business programmes to young people, providing start-up grants and training in microenterprise and career development.
One social enterprise challenge supported 240 individual or group business projects, and aspiring professionals, resulting in 670 youth now operating their own business (each employing around two people) or securing employment with government entities, NGOs or international organizations.
For Nazik Ali (pictured above, right), a successful challenge participant, it meant expansion of her ‘waste to art’ business. Using waste cloth, discarded plastic, and other materials, Nazik produces decorations and homewares, and has now increased her income to SDG 13,000 a month (about US$235).
This initiative is made possible by support from the Republic of Korea through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Government of Japan, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), and the Government of Sudan, in collaboration with Darfur’s Ministries of Finance and Social Affairs, and local peace centers.
4. Helping communities deter young people from violence
In addition to job creation and skill development, UNDP contributes to peacebuilding with communities and at-risk youth by promoting alternative pathways to violence or extremism.
Creating Iman — a movie exploring the human side of those on a path to, or caught up in, violence — screenings were held across Sudan, particularly aimed at the most vulnerable.
For Ahmed (pictured above, not his real name), a teenager and now former gang-member in one of Khartoum’s most impoverished urban areas, the effect was significant. “[I learned] what great damage that happened to me,” he said.
“I learned unlawful things to make livings,” he continues. “I feel I am an abandoned person, everyone tries to avoid me. In the eyes of many I am just a criminal. I was falling apart.”
Ahmed now fronts a self-formed rap group, writing and performing songs decrying violence and extremism, and takes part in prevention efforts in his community.
Support from the Government of Norway means nearly 1,000 people in Ahmed’s community have been able to attend screenings of Iman, complemented by religious dialogues and leadership and vocational training for hundreds more.
Iman was produced with support from the Governments of Canada and Japan as part of UNDP Sudan’s Partnering Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) efforts. With support from the Government of Norway, the programme aims to dissuade young men and women from violence, build resilience to extremism, and support disengagement and reintegration of individuals associated with violent groups.
5. Empowering youth as drivers of development and stability in Darfur and the “Two Areas”
With high unemployment but endless determination, young people in conflict-affected areas are vital to development, stabilization, peacebuilding, and recovery.
To enable this, UNDP trained nearly 600 youth volunteers in community development, conflict resolution, and sustainability, and deployed them to 172 communities across Darfur.
Young Darfurians have led the creation and management of 41 infrastructure projects, like water boreholes (pictured above), markets, community and health centers, with more than 125,000 people benefiting. Simultaneously, they’ve helped found 682 micro-enterprises, 648 ‘savings groups’, providing 13,000 people to access finance, and 90 ‘peace clubs’.
Similarly, in conflict-impacted Blue Nile and South Kordofan, youth are both a focus for peacebuilding initiatives — provided livelihoods, training, and support — and essential drivers of peace themselves.
Focusing on management skills, conflict resolution, business and agriculture, tens of thousands of young people have been assisted. Together, they’ve created a range of enterprises including farms, TV viewing clubs, event equipment rental and tyre repair. And, once established, youth often contribute to on-going peace and development initiatives.
Across the successes one thing is clear: Sudan’s young people are pivotal to recovery, peace, and development.
These initiatives are possible with support from the Republic of Korea through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), the Governments of Japan, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Canada, United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Italian Development Cooperation and the Government of Sudan, in collaboration with Darfur’s Ministries of Finance and Social Affairs, and local peace centres.
6. Fostering climate-protection attitudes and efforts by youth leaders
Threatened by desertification and escalating weather patterns, and with an economy reliant on agriculture, climate change is a major driver of conflict in Sudan.
Though climate-mitigation is part of UNDP Sudan’s efforts to secure a ‘new Green Deal’, youth participation is essential and must go further than the efforts above. As a result, dedicated UNDP-funded initiatives — like climate-hackathons and eco-neighborhoods — add to impact.
Aimed at raising awareness and developing climate-focused solutions for Sudan, a 24-hour Impact Hub Khartoum ‘Climathon’ brought together 40 young officials, entrepreneurs, software developers, professionals, students and civil society members, drawing on environmental expertise from local organizations: Climate-KIC; Moutasim Nimir Center for Environmental Culture; and the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society.
The winning idea, currently in development at the Hub, was an early-warning flood system expected to reduce fatalities and economic damage by 25–34%, using climate and flood modelling and AI prediction.
UNDP has also worked with youth in urban ‘resistance committees’, alongside the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society, to encourage communities to go green. This has delivered environmentally protective projects, like waste management, to awareness-raising campaigns, to the creation of community green spaces.
7. Equipping Sudan’s young advocates and changemakers
Already successful change agents, Sudan’s youth are equipped to tackle significant challenges. But, despite their success, they describe persistent generational and gender barriers, particularly in policymaking, civil society, and international arenas.
Addressing this disempowerment, UNDP Sudan employs several initiatives, notably the Empowerment of Young Women for Enrichment of Sudan (EYES) Project and the Youth Leadership Programme (YLP).
Together, they further enable youth with leadership and organizational training, relationships with policymakers, and platforms to develop priorities and responses.
The EYES Project specifically works with young female activists, selecting 30 emerging leaders from across Sudan for training and networks. In the face of COVID-19, many participants mobilized to support community protection efforts and awareness raising.
YLP has trained over 3,000 young people nationwide, designing more than 200 projects, covering development, entrepreneurship, peace and security, climate change, human rights, leadership, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Many YLP-conceptualized projects are now on-going initiatives, including AMNA, a youth organization tackling gender-based violence through campaigns and community projects. More than 300 volunteers now take part in AMNA’s initiatives, helping hundreds of vulnerable women.
Matching the ambitions of Sudan’s youth, YLP has supported their high hopes. In the words of Doha Adil, one young participant, “YLP is the place where everything started for me, where I got closer to my dream of bringing about change, it showed me no matter how different we are we can still make a common ground fits everyone for a cause of a better world.”
Support for EYES and YLP was made possible with UNDP core funding, provided by a number of contributing nations. Across the successes one thing is clear: Sudan’s young people are essential to recovery.