Alumni Story: Fatma started the campaign Speak-Out Against Harassment

Fatma started the campaign Speak-Out Against Harassment to address the prevalent issue of harassment in Sudan. She is an alumna from the master’s programme International Affairs at Linnaeus University.

”I grew up in Sudan, in a fiercely patriarchal society. Through the campaign, I wanted to challenge this, to remind myself and other women that what we go through isn’t okay, and to provide a space where the meaning and impact of harassment is understood”, Fatma says.

It all started when Fatma was harassed at a graduation ceremony and wrote about her experience, the anger, and sadness in a blog.

“It received a lot of attention online. There was overwhelming support, but also hate directed towards me for daring to speak about this issue. However, I decided to continue and, with the help of friends, designed a flyer and created accounts on Twitter and Facebook to mark the start of a social change campaign”, Fatma explains.

Once the campaign started, many women began to reach out, by emailing and messaging Fatma on social media, asking to be part of the campaign.

“Before this campaign, there wasn’t a space for women to come together and speak-up, at least not to my knowledge. I wanted this campaign to allow women a safe space to share their experiences and offer a refuge and sense of community for women”, Fatma continues.

Fatma also realised that many men in her society did not understand the deeper impact of sexual harassment and that, in fact, it is a much deeper issue rooted in power, control and misogyny.

“I interviewed women from different walks of life, in different stages in their personal and professional lives, and they all had one thing in common; a desire for the injustice to stop”, she says.

The campaign had two sides. The main one was a blog where women’s experiences were shared, and the other one was a social media platform for engagement with the online community which was used by people to share their thoughts and opinions.

”I was lucky to have a friend who assisted me. I want to thank him, not only for his help, but also for coming into a space and actively listening to women who entrusted him with their experiences to be shared. I think that social change is only sustainable when all members of society can come together, and I appreciate that he was among the men who helped drive the vehicle for change”, Fatma continues.

Fatma studied International Affairs at Linnaeus University. Today she is an intern at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

“My master’s programme gave me trust in my skills in terms of research and writing. One of the important skills I learned is to conduct scientific studies and write evidence-based papers. When I started the campaign five years ago, I only had the vision, but today I have the ability to walk into a room and address social issues with the confidence and knowledge of research backing me”, Fatma concludes.

Flyers on campus
The image shows Speak-Out Against Harassment's flyers.