The Youth Peer Education Network – Y-PEER Sudan – was established in 2008 with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Currently, the network has presence and carries out activities in all of Sudan’s 18 states, with more than 10,000 members. Their work targets issues related to peacebuilding, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence (GBV), and carries out regular advocacy campaigns to ensure that the results of their work reach all the relevant stakeholders in Sudan to inform policy and interventions.
In 2020, the Sudan Y-PEER network partnered with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the University of Khartoum, to implement a community-led research and advocacy project to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Sudan, with the support of UK Aid. This Sudanese-led, youth-powered, and community-owned partnership through its bottom-up approach and rapid real-time response has generated a wealth of evidence that has effectively informed the national policy and response.
The project includes five research studies that aim to understand which set of prevention activities, both within and outside households, are most acceptable and feasible in a Sudanese context. In addition to, conducting quantitative surveys that measure the changing levels of social mixing, COVID-19 infections and deaths throughout the epidemic.
The results of the conducted research so far have been used to develop various policy briefs translating research findings to policy makers and communities alike. The advocacy policy briefs have supported the design of the national Sudan COVID-19 campaign and the content of a COVID-19 awareness drama series presented by the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Health. With the support of Sudan Y-PEER volunteers, several COVID-19 awareness campaigns were run in six states.
Sudan Y-PEERs Take On COVID-19
COVID-19 hit Sudan at a most difficult time, as the country battling with political upheaval, devastating floods, disease outbreaks and broiling economic turmoil. The first confirmed case was reported in March 2020, after which the pandemic dramatically spread and escalated, exacerbating pre-existing weaknesses and exposing the vulnerability of the health system and the community.
From the get-go, young Sudanese Y-PEER activists both men and women rushed to answer the call to mobilise on several different fronts: by raising awareness in the community through campaigns, and by supporting the ongoing efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases through operational research and implementing evidence-based interventions in their communities. Relying on sheer numbers and penetration and fuelled by raw motivation, a strong sense of responsibility and the unwavering Sudanese conviction of protecting your own, they formed and continue to form an expansive and resolute force that has stood in the way of COVID-19 and shielded the community from a much worser fate.
Women on the Front Lines
The role of women in leading community action and response in the face of crisis cannot be overestimated. Young Sudanese women have always played an important role in the day-to day struggle for basic rights and sustainable change. This is no different in the case of Sudan Y-PEER, where women form around 50% of the network. In the current research initiative, three of five state coordinators – as well as the national project manager – are women, reflecting the make-up of the Y-PEER leadership throughout the country.
In line with its mandate, the Y-PEER’s recruitment process has always paid close attention to maintaining the gender balance within the organisation, by actively working on recruiting suitable members from both genders leading to structural gender balance throughout the organisation on all its levels. On a state level, six out of the 11 state coordinators are females and there are currently three female national officers leading the day-to-day operations and activities.
This gender-sensitive approach to leadership and empowerment garners even more importance when the local context is taken into consideration. Despite the fact that women’s education and participation should be highly valued and encouraged, a significant proportion of women in Sudan continue to be systematically oppressed and lack access to education especially in rural or conflict affected settings, due to economic challenges and remnant male-centred ideology. Sudan Y-PEER focuses heavily on addressing these barriers through advocacy, and deliberate recruitment and training policies that emphasize equal access at all levels.
Sudan is a country defined by community action despite challenge. The young female and male activists within Sudan Y-PEER believe that the global community should carefully look for ways to provide more equal opportunities and prospects to amplify young male and female’s contributions and future potential in order to learn better, do better and move forward together.
Abd Elhameed Ahmed Abd Elhameed
National Coordinator for the COVID-19 project
Ahmed Tom Humaidan
Peer Educator, Northern Kordofan State Coordinator
Rahaf Abu Koura
Research Fellow, LSHTM
Reem O. M. Gaafar
Health policy researcher
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