A Page for Lillian - Lillian Craig Harris, PhD., OBE.
Director of The Bishop Mubarak Fund for Nuba women 1996 - 2005 and then Together for Sudan 2005 - 2013
The work which became Together for Sudan began while I was living in Sudan from 1995 to 1999 while my husband Alan Goulty (now Secretary of the Women's Education Partnership) was British Ambassador to the Sudan. During a visit to the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan I was approached by a woman who asked if I could help her daughter attend university. The young woman’s family had been able to fund her through the one secondary school for girls in Kadugli but realized they had no way to help her attend Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman. Because relatives and friends had helped me through college when I was in a similar predicament, I saw the request as a chance to repay a debt. And so I agreed thinking that it would be relatively easy to help one young woman.
Soon, however, other young Nuba women in the same situation began to ask for similar support and I found I had three young women for whose tuition I was responsible. Since then, with the help of many people who believe as I do that educated women are essential to national peace and stability, the number has increased every year. In January 2010 Together for Sudan had a total of 187 scholars in 14 universities in Khartoum and the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and 169 university graduates.
Meanwhile, a number of other educational and educational support projects were also started. It is wonderful what can be accomplished when you know that you are helping other women and can involve many others in the work. TfS began The Women’s Literacy Project when a Sudanese Episcopal priest set up a number of literacy classes for women in the camps for displaced people outside Khartoum, promising the women that Lillian would pay their teachers! What could I do? On a wing and a prayer I set to work fundraising and have never looked back. There hasn’t been time for that because more was to come.Together for Sudan developed five Educational Projects and three Educational Support Projects (Eye Care Outreach, HIV/AIDS Awareness Outreach and The Solar Project which lit up people’s lives by helping them to study and learn to read when they live outside the electricity grid.)
Together for Sudan became a major part of what I think I was born to do. Where there is a need there is usually a way and those who respond positively are usually the greatest beneficiaries. I have no doubt that when we respond positively to people less fortunate than we are, we ourselves are blessed.
In the mid 1990s, years of terrible trauma for thousands of Sudanese as the civil war continued, I was approached by a group of northern Muslim women who asked if I would help them find some southern Sudanese women to talk to about peace. We met at the British Residence until a women’s centre was set up. Thanks to those women I became more convinced than ever that real peace and a stable society will only come to Sudan when educated women help their uneducated sisters. “Men want power” the Sudanese women told me, “but we women want peace.” The Women’s Action Group was eventually closed down, in large part due to men who opposed such ideas. But Together for Sudan went from strength to strength as a result of the Sudanese women’s desire for education and the resolve of many people outside Sudan – and inside, such as President Gasim Badri of Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman and a TfS Patron -- to help them achieve it. The two TfS slogans, “Power to the Powerless through Education” and “Building Peace through Service”, are a rallying call for help. “Do not forget us,” the women told me when I had to leave Sudan in 1998. Since then I have returned to Sudan some 25 times and continue to visit twice a year. But each year the work belongs more completely to them.
Education is a long and difficult road but, with the strength of Sudanese women behind us, Together for Sudan continued to push forward even in times of economic recession and the political uncertainties which complicated Sudan’s future. I sent out a call for support in the face of our growing economic difficulties and immediately two women I know in Britain responded positively, one with a gift of £20 pounds sterling and the other with a gift of £1,000 sterling. The amount is not as important as their faith in the future of Sudanese women and children.
I can never forget the faith, determination and strength of Sudanese sisters who have given to me far more than I shall ever be able to give to them. One of my favourite memories in singing with them shortly before I left Sudan in 1998 “We shall overcome, we shall overcome some day. For deep in my heart I do believe that we shall overcome some day” We sang it in both Arabic and English to make certain it was heard and understood. The continuation of this work in the Women's Education Partnership is a response to that heart cry.