30 Sudanese Women You Should Know

By Reem Gaafar

For centuries Sudanese women have been pushing the boundaries of the patriarchal society, excelling in fields almost always dominated by men despite the difficulties they face. We searched for the women making an impact today both nationally and internationally, in all different fields: health, environment, women’s rights, arts, filmmaking, political and social activism, engineering, literature and even traditional dance, and came up with over 45 names but had to cut down to 30 for the sake of the reader’s sanity. This list, in no particular order, is just the start.

Source: www.redress.org
Source: www.redress.org

1. Jalila Khamis Kuku – Political activism: Sudanese teacher and activist who is the face of the almost invisible conflict in the Nuba Mountains. A member of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement – North, she was arrested by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service in 2013 and accused of treason after posting a video on YouTube speaking out about the atrocities being carried out by the Sudanese government in the region. She was released after a 10-month detainment, and was later awarded the Delegation of the European Union to Sudan’s “Heroes for Human Rights Award 2013”.

2. Professor Balghis Badri – Gender studies and women’s rights: established the Afhad University Regional Institute for Gender, Diversity, Peace and Rights, and is an active member of Regional Centre of Arab Women for Research and Training. She has been fighting gender-based injustice such as violence against women, FGM and early marriage since 1979 and advocating for women’s rights and empowerment in Sudan by actively influencing policy through her research and training.

Source: Facebook/Future Makers
Source: Future Makers

3. Hanan Mohamed A/Karim Abbas – Corporate Social Responsibility/sustainable development: a leading figure in corporate social responsibility. She trains and teaches young people in the use of innovation in science and technology, management, responsible investment and business ethics, marketing, the environment and sustainability among other things. She is a known supporter of civil youth movements and sits on the boards of several charity organizations and research committees, as well as being a member of the Jury of the Arabic CSR Network.

Source: www.unicef.org
Source: www.unicef.org

4. Gada Kadoda – Knowledge management: she was 2010’s African Scholar Guest of the AnnualProgram at the University of South Africa, was on UNICEF’s list of nine innovators to watch in 2014, and received the Sudanese Women in Science Organisation Award in 2015. She is an independent researcher with a Ph.D. in Software Engineering. She is also the founding member of the Sudanese Knowledge Society, and is the author of “Knowledge Production” in the Encyclopedia of Case Study Research.

5. Magda Mohamed El-Sanousi – Women’s rights: a gender and development expert and activist, and is the manager of the Arab Region Gender Equality program that covers Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Yemen. She is also Chief of Women’s Empowerment Section at the UN Support Mission in Libya. She was Oxfam GB Country Director in Lebanon until June 2013, during which she worked in giving women living in poverty access to legal support and justice, and involving men in the fight against violence against women. She also lobbied to promote gender sensitive budgets and policies, advocating to give widows access to pensions, and on empowering women in remote villages in Egypt to vote and even stand as candidates in the parliamentary election.

Source: www.kering.com
Source: www.kering.com

6. Taghreed Elsanhouri – Arts/Filmmaking/Social activism: an award-winning Sudanese-British independent filmmaker who has given a voice to the marginalized population of Sudan through her films: ‘All About Darfur’ in 2005, ‘Mother Unknown’ in 2009 and ‘Our Beloved Sudan’ in 2011. In 2011 she established the Cultural Healing initiative as a cultural activism and outreach project in order to promote dialogue and critical reflection on issues of silence and conflict in Sudan. The project produced 8 short films before being shut down by the security authorities in 2013.

Source: www.mc-doualiya.com
Source: www.mc-doualiya.com

7. Awadiya Mahmoud Kuku – Social activism/women’s rights: a tea seller displaced fromKordufan, she is a part of a collective of women who established a cooperative union with almost 8,000 members for those whose income is generated through selling tea and food on roadsides, or engaging in informal labor. The union supports and improves women’s livelihoods and challenges their mistreatment, and provides them with legal support. In 2006 Awadia and several other union members were jailed for 4 years for debt. She recently received the International Women of Courage award from the US Department of State.

Source: www.honordiaries.com
Source: www.honordiaries.com

8. Fahima Hashim – Women’s rights/political activism: a women’s rights defender/activist, researcher, and trainer, and the director of Salmma Women’s Resources Center. Through the center she has been mobilizing and empowering women and women’s groups in order to influence policy and overcome structural, political and legal obstacles to the advancement of women’s rights, as well as advocating for ending the violence in Darfur through organizing the movement ‘Women Against War’.

9. Nour Hussein – Orphans’ rights/social activism: a leading voice for the stigmatized group of abandoned children in Sudan. Growing up in the Mygoma orphanage, she overcame the barriers of social stigma and excelled in her studies, later winning a scholarship to pursue higher studies in Jordan. She established her center ‘Shamaa’ that advocates for the rights of orphans and children from unknown parents, and challenges the society’s perception of them by raising awareness about their rights and abilities, and about adoption, and helps in obtaining legal documents.

10. Gisma – Traditional: a Sudanese singer and dance instructor who has revolutionized the art of the traditional wedding dance night, and has shaped and reshaped the traditional wedding industry over the years. Due to the trends and standards she has set, wedding singers and instructors – and by association the entire traditional wedding industry – have shot up in cost, style and importance. While many may argue how positive her effect is, she is unquestionably influential.

Photo Credit: Reem Gaafar
Photo Credit: Reem Gaafar

11. Muna Isam Eldin Osman – Architecture: a prominent name in a field that was heavily male dominated and is still highly politicized. She headed the powerful Dar Consultancy Firm’s design section for several years before moving back to teaching at the University of Khartoum where she was the first woman in the college’s history to be accepted based solely on practical experience and accomplishments. She was the first architect to introduce the curtain wall system in Sudan, and has since designed and supervised the construction of major landmark buildings, and now manages her own consultancy firm.

12. Widad Yagoub Ibrahim – Engineering/micro-financing: a civil engineer and the founder of the petroleum and housing development company ‘Bee’. Established in 1986 with just 3 employees, the company now employs over 800 people with both national and international offices. She also established the first bank for micro-financing in 2008 which has funded over 14,000 families and has 24 branches in different states, and has built several schools for elementary and vocational training in conflict areas. In 2006 she was the first woman to be invited to join the executive committee of the Business Men’s Union, upon which the name was changed to the Business Owners’ Union.

13. Nawal Nour – Health/Women’s rights: a Sudanese-American OBGYN and founder of the African Women’s Health Practice that focuses on both physical and emotional needs of women who have undergone Female Genital Cutting (FGC). She is the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Genius award, and a Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellow. She conducts workshops to educate African refugees and immigrants on the medical complications and legal issues of FGC, and has published a book educating OBGYNs on the medical management of circumcised women in the United States and Canada.

Source: Alsudaniya Mentoring
Source: Alsudaniya Mentoring

14. Mai Khidir – Women empowerment: recognizing the difficulties girls and women face in Sudan in reaching their full potential, she established the Alsudaniya Mentoring program in 2014 to connect Sudanese female role models worldwide, accomplished in their academic or professional careers, to young girls living in Sudan. The program includes training young women in leadership skills, career planning, women’s rights and their role in society, organizational skills and time management. It is now in its third year and has involved 75 individuals to date.

15. Yassmin Abdel Magied – Social activism: growing up in Australia, Yassmin founded ‘Youth Without Borders‘ when she was just 16, an organisation that enables young people to work together to implement positive change within their communities and internationally. She has forged a hybrid career as an engineer, social advocate and media commentator. She published her book ‘Yassmin’s Story’ earlier this year.

16. Leila Aboulela – Literature: an award winning novelist who has put Sudan on the African English literature map. She has authored 4 novels as well as several shorts stories and plays. She was the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Literature and is the fiction winner of the Scottish Book Awards, among others. Her work has been translated into 14 languages.

17. Nahid Toubia – Health/Women’s rights: a women’s health rights activist, specializing in research into (FGM). She is the co-founder and director of RAINBO, the Research, Action and Information Network for Bodily Integrity of Women which works in Uganda, South Africa, the Gambia, and Nigeria. Among other posts, she is vice-chair of the advisory committee of the Women’s Rights Watch Project of Human Rights Watch. She has played a prominent role in changing the view of FGM from being a predominantly medical concern to a human rights issue.

Source: The Guardian
Source: The Guardian

18. Niema Albagir: Journalism: an award-winning London-based international correspondent at CNN. She has covered difficult areas such as conflict in Darfur including exposing rape allegations against members of the African Union and being the only Western journalist reporting from Mogadishu during the US bombing of Somalia. In her first documentary with Unreported World “Meet the Janjaweed” she gained unprecedented access to “Hemeti”, one of the main Arab Janjaweed Commanders at the heart of the fighting in Darfur, broadcasting the first documentary evidence of the Sudanese government’s direct involvement with the Janjaweed and the role China’s arms sales to Darfur are playing in the conflict.

19. Zeinab Badawi – Journalism: a Sudanese-British television and radio journalist at the BBC since 1998, and is founder and chair of the Africa Medical Partnership Fund (AfriMed), a charity which aims to help local medical professionals in Africa. She has been an adviser to the Foreign Policy Centre and a Council Member of the Overseas Development Institute. In 2009, she was named International TV Personality of the Year.

20. Hania Morsi – Health: runs the first and only not-for-profit breast cancer clinic in Sudan and the Horn of Africa. Her clinic provides state-of-the-art screening, diagnostic and treatment services for patients from Sudan and neighbouring countries at prices that are affordable and/or subsidized, and sometimes at no cost at all. Since it opened, the centre has seen over 15,000 women and diagnosed 12,000 cancer cases, including some men. In 2015 Dr. Morsi was awarded Her Majesty’s Order of the British Empire.

21. Siham Daoud Angelo – Social activism/education: was one of 1000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. A native of the Nuba Mountains, she has trained hundreds of women through her brand Zags and Rags, which handcrafts bags, clothes and toys out of bits of material. Her company trains the women – mostly widows and housewives – in sewing and designing, and gives them sewing machines and jobs, as well as eradication of illiteracy by teaching them to read and write.

Source: The Guardian
Source: The Guardian

22. Nesrine Malik – Journalism: One of leading Sudanese columnist in the British press and is a panelist on BBC Dateline London. She writes for the Guardian where she specializes in Sudanese affairs as well as Islamophobia and terrorism. She also writes for the New York Times and Foreign Policy. She has been shortlisted for several awards, and is a member of ‘Creative Access’, an organization that aims to get more minorities into UK media.

23. Salma Almagidi – Sports: the first woman to officially coach a men’s football team in Africa and the Arab World after obtaining her professional coaching license from the Confederation of African Football. Despite her young age (only 25!), she managed to lead her team Alnasr through 3 consecutive wins thereby saving it from dropping into the 4th category.

24. Maisoon Matar – Environmental awareness/ entrepreneurship: is Sudan’s ambassador for Women Entrepreneurship Day and the founding member and director of the recycling company ‘Fandoura’ that produces accessories and household items from waste to raise environmental awareness. She conducts training workshops in prisons, juvenile rehabilitation centers and neighbourhoods. The project partners with several entities such as Ahfad University for Women and the Higher Environmental Committee, as well as working with the UNDP with victims of violence.

25. Niemat Ahmadi – Political activism: the founder of Darfur Women Action Group, a group that works in education for internally displaced children in Darfur, protection of human rights defenders on the ground, as well as the establishment of a Women Empowering Center in Darfur that provides health care, counseling and safe spaces to survivors of sexual violence. She is also Founding Member of the Darfuri Leaders Network, a coalition of more than 20 domestic Darfuri organizations working to promote peace and security.

26. Asma I. El Sony – Health/scientific research: a leading specialist in TB nationally and internationally. She headed the National Tuberculosis Program Sudan Federal Ministry of Health for several years during which major progress in fighting TB was made, then founded The Epidemiological Laboratory, an institute which works in TB control and research, including working to make health services for TB more accessible to poor people (including those affected by the HIV pandemic). She holds several leading positions in organizations, has co-authored 4 books and has over 25 solo and 30 shared publications.

Source: www.blog.witness.org
Source: www.blog.witness.org

27. Nahla Mohakar – Filmmaking/Human rights: a published writer, filmmaker and human rights activist. She co-directed her first film ‘Diversity’ in 2010 around the referendum for secession of the South, and conducts filmmaking training workshops for human rights activists. During her work with activist Nahid Jabrallah in the SEEMA center for training and protection of women and child’s rights in Sudan, she helped create videos to campaign for legislative reform.

Source: www.flickr.com
Source: www.flickr.com

28. Hadeel Ibrahim – Business/philanthropy: the founding executive director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation to support leadership and governance in Africa, a post she was appointed to at the age of 22. She is a member of several boards and committees, through which she advocates for victims of climate change, preservation of cultural patrimony and a zillion other things. She was recently appointed to the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel of experts to address humanitarian funding shortfalls, and has been classified as one of the 20 women who are moving Africa and one of the 100 most influential people under 40 in the Arab world.

29. Kamala Ishaq Ibrahim – Art: the first modern woman painter in Sudan. She is a pioneer in Sudanese and African contemporary art and painting who contributed to creation of the Crystal movement that challenged the art establishment in Sudan and sought to challenge the dominating masculine vision of art in the country.

Source: www.accessnow.org
Source: www.accessnow.org

30. Dalia Haj Omer – Human rights: a peace-building, human rights and conflict management expert and writer with 10 years of international experience in the Middle East and Africa. She works with USAID/OTI-fundedprojects, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, The World Bank, Chemonics and Development Alternatives Inc. Her reportage and opinion pieces have appeared in The New York Times and Foreign Affairs. She recently published her guidebook for the Strategic Use of New Media for Peaceful Social Change.


Who else do you think should be on this list? Contact us at ElleAfrique with your suggestions, and follow the hashtags #SudaneseExcellence and #SudaneseWomenRising for more.


  1. Well written and so informative!!! This should be done for all the African countries and constantly updated. Very inspirational.

  2. People will always argue on such lists.. this is normal.. the upcoming arguments will help to adjust your list regularly.. so, thanks for leading us to write on our own Great women.. you did it in the right way and I am sure w’ld all benefit from thia effort..

  3. Thank you for reading and sharing! And thanks to ElleAfrique for providing a platform to celebrate awesome African women and recognize their hard work and accomplishments.

  4. Very good effort and I like tge diversity of fields and bringing many young women as well. I will recommend Sittana Bedri a pioneer artist and textile painter who paved the way for many artists in painting the Sudanese toub (national dress) and held her first exhibition in the 1960s in the US and uses copper and many traditional materials in her art.

    Saadia Alsalahi is another name that can be added.

  5. Suaad Al Fateh Al Badawi, regardless of her political inclination, has
    big contributions, after all she was voted Mother of Africa by the African

  6. Suad Abdelhafeez Hamad Almalike she is the first woman in the city of wad madani to fight fgm with amazing knologe before around 50 years back.She was self educated .In a conferace about fgm a doctor gynachlogest stated that fgm is good because it reduces the women sexual arausal and keeps her from committing a sin ? Suad corrected him and told him in front of all the gathering that woman arousal is in her head and not in her gentle??? She inlightned a lot families and protected there girls from this brutal crime . She is now at the age of around 90 years God bless her.

  7. Dr Magda Mustafa Sadig a single mother who raised five children alone completed her postgraduate studies got her phd degree extended her knowledge to thousands of university students at different universities participated in developing new educational programmes outstanding researcher in the field of knowledge economy as the first African women who wrote on knowledge economy .the woman who spent her life for her students not just inside lecture rooms but extended her spirit and experiences for the sake of training them how to become good citizens and valuable individuals. Dr Magda deserve to be known as A single mother whose four sons and one daughter are studying different engineering specialization at the University of khartoum.

  8. Dear Reem Gaafar

    I understand and appreciate the trouble you went through in combining such an interesting list that represents women leadership in Sudan.

    This could become a serious piece of work that documents Sudanese women leadership in general. The list provides names, sector and a mini CV for each woman. What would really make it useful is a ‘criteria’ that will be set up by you prior sending out surveys. So, qualitatively speaking, solid arguments should be put forward by whoever suggested any names on their choice based on the criteria for qualifying women.
    You said in the article : ‘We searched for the women making an impact today both nationally and internationally, in all different fields:’ But you actually don’t say on which ‘grounds’ you measured this impact? This is important because as readers, we need to feel and know that we’ve been given an honest, impartial, well articulated account of what women leadership means or look like today in Sudan.

    In defense for your article, you said ‘We asked people on different social media platforms and on the ground to nominate, and also combed the web in different fields for accomplishments by Sudanese women’. And ‘Furthermore, the actual documentation was an issue and some women unfortunately had to be taken out because all the evidence is hear say which I’m sure is true but still needs to be fairly documented as this is not a Sudanese platform where everyone ‘knows’ them.’ Regarding the documentation, I am surprised that more was found on Gisma than on Al-Balabil on social media and on the net! I love Gisma, don’t get me wrong but if we’re talking current local & national impact, innovation, continuity, professionalism, and other criteria, then Al-Balabil must be on top of the list.

    Second, what is the reason you chose women leaders who are active NOW? Does this include women who have been active for many years but are still alive too and their wok has made a huge impact? I mention works of Dr Fatima Babikir Mahmoud, an international Feminist who is still writing books, and who has made a huge impact on empowering women and women movement in Sudan since the 1907’s. I don’t think you meant to chose only ‘young’ leaders, apart from this being ageist, some of the women in your list cannot be described as ‘young’. So, what’s the deal?

    Third, why does it matter for leaders to have both ‘national and international’ impact? I note that journalists are well presented in the list mainly because their work is ‘documented’ through the channels they work for. But, while they are well known and respected professionals on Western standards, so, what impact have Zeinab Badawi, Nesrine Malik had in Sudan?

    I wanted to thank you for your efforts and time spent providing us with such information. I hope that my comments will be taken as constructive feedback rather than criticism.

    • I totally agree with you. The list is missing some real names for women who make this impact. Take for instance Amal Habbani, who had been awarded many international awards on the efforts she is making regarding human rights and women rights.

  9. This is a fair and and a good representative list.I am humbly proud that my daughter , Nawal, is amonst them although the information is out of date ( search Google ).
    As some wrote ,it is never complete. Amonst the missing ones are Fatma Ahmed Ibrahim, Khalda Zahir, Soad Ibrahim Ahmed who have left an indelible mark before they passed away. One very much alive and most active is Sandra Kododa. She is a fierce fighter for democracy and freedom of expression.

    • Thank you Professor Mohamed Nour and we’re honoured that you passed by our page. I wonder about the information being outdated, I checked 4 different sources and even looked for a direct contact for Dr Nawal to confirm but only found the clinic’s general email address. Perhaps you could correct our information? 🙂
      The great women you mentioned will have their own article in sha’ Allah as those who established the Sudanese Women’s Movement and are the main reason behind many of our privileges today. Sandra Kadoda is an interesting nomination and will definitely considered. Thanks

  10. You can have an end-less list if the criterias are not clearly defined. According to the recent list,I think other names must be included: Dr.asma abdel rahman aldarir. a former lecturer- khartoum university faculty of public health .she was one of the pioneers who did a good job in combating fgm .she died many years ago , but her work contributed a lot to that area. Another lady is d. Amna a del rahman hassan.she was an African sudanese figure who worked in the area of combating harmful habits (practces)محاربة العادات الضارة. She died three years ago.
    Other names may include
    Prof Amna alsadig badri.
    amel habbani
    Hawa altagtaga

  11. Add Nahid Gabralla, women rights activities.
    Director of SEEMA Center for Training and protection of Women and Child’s rights

  12. Dear i will nominate Anwar Soliman Osman the first sudsnese women working with victimes of torture in sudan..she is a human rights activist graduate from Ahfad university..first sudanese women working at the line of the risk with victims of tortur and victims of rape in darfur..expert in decumentation for torture and rape cases in sudan..she was decumented for more than 1500 case of tortue and rape ( physical and psychological evedance according to internatinal effective cratiria of decumantion )..she was treat and rehabilitate more than 2000 case..working in capacity bulding and trining those people who are deal with victimes..

    • Thanks Omer. Fatma Abdel Mahmoud will be in the next installment (she was already shortlisted), and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim and Suad Ibrahim Ahmed will be in a separate documentation effort of the Sudanese Women Movement in sha’ Allah.

  13. Those lists are always subjective, due to the lack of the quantitative data. You guys did a heck of a good job. Yet, I think a technocrat or politician figure such as Sarah Nugdalla, should have made the list. Because that what distinguish Sudanese from most nations in the region, who do believe high rank offices in political parties and/or government are not for women.

    • Hi Mohamed. You are absolutely right (in all aspects) and Sara Nugdallah was indeed nominated and shortlisted, and will be in the next installment and most likely in the follow-up video blog as well. Thanks!

  14. dont forget to add al sirayra mekki alsufi. she created the original flag of sudan upon british independence and was only recently credited due to patriarchal restrictions.

  15. Iam Dr.Nazik yousif Abuzeid , got married at the 2nd university year of faculty of medicine, university of Khartoum,stopped my study cause of husband objection for continuing. After 8 years got devorsed with 3 children , continued up to graduation and specialized in community medicine.The boys are grown up;one is civil engineer the other is telecommunications engineer and the youngest will be graduated from faculty of Business Administration.
    Beside being a doctor I m a social & gender activist.

  16. This is a biased list. Almost all the listed names are from the North/Arabist Sudan, where opportunities institutionally are in abundance to those from the North/center of Sudan who are mainly Arabs of the North.

    • Hi Mohamed, I’m sorry you feel that way! There are several women on the list (including the first name) who are from origins other than north/Arabist Sudanese, such as Jalilah Khamis and Siham Daoud Angelo from the Nuba Mountains, Awadiya Kuku from Kordofan and Niemat Ahmadi from Darfur. Who else would you suggest to be on the list?

  17. Thanks for the list and the appreciated efforts. I suggust Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim the first wonen parleimenterian in the medile east and Dr. Amna A bdelrahman the great figther for FGM. Pof. Balghis Badri and Samira Mahdi. Those should be added on the top of the list.

    • Thanks Sundus. Dr Balghis Badri is already on the list! Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim and the icons of the Sudanese Women Movement will have their own article in sha’ Allah. This list highlighted women who are currently active in their fields. All the best 🙂

  18. “Balgis Osman Elasha holds a PhD in Forestry Science, Master in Environmental Science and a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) with honor in Forestry and Agricultural Science. She has more than 17 years’ experience in different climate change issues with special focus on vulnerability and adaptation assessment related to African countries and the Middle East. Osman Elasha is winner of the UNEP Champions of the Earth Award for outstanding environmentalists, member of the IPCC Lead Authors-Nobel Peace Prize winners in 2007 such as winner of the highest achievement medal by the Government of Sudan in 2011”.

  19. Thank you for your efforts. I suggest to do it in rounds to fulfill other women input and to ensure inclusivity.
    Have you come across these names:
    Dr Zaynab Beshir Elbakri- Snthropologist/ world Bank
    Prof Fadwa Abdelrahman Ali Taha-Historian /UoK
    Dr Intisar Sagyroon- Archeologlaist /UoK
    Samia ElHashemi- Lawyer/Actvist
    Prof Balgis Badri/ Anthropologist / Ahfad
    Maria Abass- political scientist/ Actvist
    Kamilia Ibrahim – Actvist
    And many others

  20. Thank you Reem for the effort, really appreciated.
    One thing in the fruitful list, the name of Kamal Ishag
    Her complete name is Kamal Ibrahim Osman Ishag
    I’m proud to be her niece.
    Btw I just joined page to be honest it is the 2nd blog I read for you but I assure you that u got you a long time followe
    Again Thank you

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