​​African Women’s Lobby Stands for Student Union                                                                                                                                 

28-April-2023: Cairo Egypt


 by Gisma Mou Mou

Warm greetings from AWL in Sweden to everyone.

My name is Gisma Mou Mou, the co-founder of the African Women’s Lobby (AWL). I’m here with the Student Union in Egypt. And we have been informed that other members from  African student unions including South Sudanese students and communities are tuning in from all across Cairo, Egypt.

We want to thank the Jonglei Students’ Union for the invitation.

I could not attend the event physically, but I and the whole AWL team are right here with you spiritually and mentally. 

We are so glad that you all could come together today. We know that many of you are new Immigrant students in Egypt,  and it’s your first time living in a new country, so it’s understandable if you’re worried. We know there are some senior  Immigrant students out there who are willing to assist the new arriving students. Some senior  Immigrant students with just one more year left to complete their education or new arriving students have just begun their studies, this year 2023. And no matter how many years of studies you need, or what student union you are a member of, some of you are probably wishing to have mentors or a mother and father to guide you so that you can achieve the highest education to serve the people.

I know that feeling. When I was young, I had no father around due to the civil war in Sudan.  But since I had a dream to achieve the highest education, my mother became my first mentor. My mother didn’t have a lot of money to send me to study abroad.  But she was a teacher who graduated from a foreign Country. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself. But when the civil war becomes intense in Juba in 1989,  I moved to my uncle in Khartoum. My mother remains in Juba, South Sudan. While I was in Khartoum, Sudan, my uncle became my mentor too. He was a minister but also a teacher, so he also decided to teach me extra lessons himself every morning before school. And when the political situation became critical in Khartoum, we moved to Yemen, then to Norway and Sweden. I lost my mother, my father and my uncle. So I lost my parents and mentors. 

A lot of times, in the host country, I feel worried right there when I needed my parents and mentors’ advice and guidance. But whenever I needed them, I will remember what my mother would have told me right there and say: “Don’t worry, but put in the hard work that is needed for you to succeed”. Hard work is key for me to achieve what I want.  

So I know some of you have lost one or both parents, and many of you don’t have mentors too but you are still adjusting to going back to university. Many of you wish to have a mentor, a father, and a mother to help in your steps ahead.

So I’m here today because I have something important to tell you.  I’m here because I want to talk with you about hard work,  unity and education, and what’s expected of all of you.

We have talked a lot about the government’s responsibility for fully funding scholarships where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve. So, We thank your government for implementing the policy of fully funding scholarships for the new arriving students in Egypt.

 AWL demanded full funding scholarships for South Sudanese Students in Egypt and the new Students have received full funding scholarships. This achievement was not easy, but the African Women’s Lobby (AWL) has done its part in that fully and effectively resolving some issues through conversations and lobbying through a top-down perspective, and mentorship, education, and counselling support through bottom-up approaches.

AWL has solved problems that some big Organisations couldn’t. AWL has contributed practical tools on the integration and return better than other big organisations with fat bank accounts. AWL has stepped in with a free and voluntary online course to empower over 40 Students to overcome suicidal thoughts and advance their focus on education. And many of you have gained from that courses including the current chair of your union whom I called my Son, Atem Ngor was one of the South Sudanese students who attended AWL:s online free course.

We have also talked about unity and/or union. I have talked a lot about the unity of the people.  I used to say that ” I am Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile and Equatoria. I am not born for one state or one region, the whole of South Sudan is my native country”. And  I used to tell everyone this: “I am African, and I am European. I am not born for one continent the whole world is my home”. This is my simple view on unity or unions regarding how we can solve the common problem, like problems of Climate Change, discrimination and inequality, Wars and instability all these need unity of the people and nations.

You may have Barh al Ghazal, Upper Nile or Eqotorian but none of them will matter unless you have a country where all can fulfil their responsibilities for the peace, development and unity of the people. And the same you may have developed and developing countries, but none of them will matter unless we have the earth/the world.  Unless you show up the value of unity and responsibility; pay attention to education and help the poor and weak, the orphans and widows; listen to each other; and put in the hard work it takes to develop your county with the highest-quality education to reduce the flow of young people who obtain education outside their country of citizenship. 

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for the development and unity of the people,  and I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every one of you is strong in something. Every one of you has knowledge and something strong to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what you are strong in. That’s the opportunity unity can provide….

And no matter what good thing you want to achieve – We guarantee that you’ll need both unity of the people and education to do it. And unity isn’t just important for your country, but for the world. What you make for unity to solve the common problem and education will decide nothing less than the future of your country and the future of our planet.

What you’re doing for your education and unity today will determine whether you as a student union can meet the greatest challenges in the future. You will need students from other states in your country to solve the common problem.

You need to develop a strong union and protect the nations and stop wars. You will need the insights and critical thinking skills to gain unity and stop tribalism and discrimination. You will need to make an umbrella of the Student union that is fair and free. You will need the creativity to start the Students Forum and businesses that will create new jobs.

Your nation needs every one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so that you can help the nation to solve the most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you neglecting in your education – you’re not just neglecting your education, you’re neglecting your unity and countries.

Now I know it’s not always easy to live in your country of origin when there is a war and high rates of unemployment for young people. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now in foreign countries that can make it hard to focus on your education and Student union. 

I understand that. I know how hard living in a second country is. I left Sudan and my family when I was young, and I struggled in my new country to get a new language and an education, take care of kids and pay the bills which wasn’t always easy. There were times when I missed paying my bills. I applied for thousands of different jobs, but I was rejected a thousand times. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in. So I wasn’t always as focused on things like Student Union as I should have been.

During the really hard days in the first years in a new country, I used to go outside in the rain sometimes upset. The children used to at my coat and thoughtfully asked, “Mom, don’t you need an umbrella when you go out in the rain? Won’t you get sick?” They didn’t notice that I was upset. No, I didn’t need an umbrella, I needed to ventilate.

But I was fortunate. I got a lot of mentors, and foremost Sweden supports education. When I moved to Sweden, I could only speak and write two languages,  English and Arabic fluently.  In Sweden, you have to learn the Swedish language. And because I was very determined to have high education,  I learned the Swedish language from scratch, and then I was able to go to University and did both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Swedish. I  follow my dreams because I dreamed bigger, and today I am a member of the regional council in Sörmland, Sweden. I am elected to represent the voice of diverse people. There is nothing impossible in this world.  You can accomplish what you want even more than what I have today.  I am older than you, but I am still dreaming bigger. 

Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have mentors in your life to give you the support that you need. Maybe there’s not enough money for you to go around. Maybe you live in a neighbourhood where you don’t feel safe or wanted.

The circumstances of your life – what you look like, how many challenges you face, what you’re going on at home or in communities or university, or country – that’s no excuse for neglecting your education and unity as a student union. 

So the student Union is very important.  “Where you come from doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. You write your own destiny.” You make your own unity and the future of your country. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across the world.

Many of you have good grades in law, agriculture, economics, public health, etc. You chose to take responsibility for your education and union of Students and communities, and you set goals for yourselves,  your country and the world.  And we expect all of you to succeed.

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to work hard for the unity of students’ unions.  Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for new students who are being discriminated against because of who they are or how they look,  or maybe you will stand up for the African Women’s Lobby Youth Union (AWL-Yn) which is being rejected for financial support because of which name it has because you believe like I do, that all people deserve a safe environment to develop and contribute.  Whatever you resolve to do, we want you to commit to it. we want you to really work hard at it. 

I would like to end the speech with a quotation that Barak Obama once said and I quote:

 ”And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country. The story of [your country]  is not about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything not less than their best. ” So today, I want to ask you, what is your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for [your] country?”

The African Women Lobby (AWL), and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have free mentorship programs to encourage you to finish your education and help you to resolve common problems. African Women’s Lobby together with you will work hard to assist the Student Union. But you’ve got to do your part too. 

So we expect you to get serious in your Union, education and hard work. We expect you to do better than your best effort in everything you do. We expect great things from every one of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. Make your Nation Proud. 

Thank you all, May God bless everyone, and God bless your Student Union.

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