Our Sudanese sister, Roya Hassan, passed away suddenly and tragically on Friday, 2 June, 2023. Roya was a member of Nobel Women's Initiative's Fall 2021 cohort of the Sister to Sister Mentorship Program. Roya proudly identified herself as a person with a disability, bravely navigating life with multiple sclerosis (MS), and was our sole sister who actively focused her feminist work on making visible the unseen lives of women with disabilities in Sudan and throughout the global South.
Roya's premature death was a direct consequence of the conflict in Sudan. At the beginning of the conflict, there was difficulty in accessing medication, medical care and basic supplies. She then had to endure a long, stressful and painful evacuation journey by car to safety outside the capital. Once she arrived to safety, she had to deal with the physical damage the long journey had caused to her already beleaguered body while battling a case of malaria.
Roya was born, the eldest child of five children, in January 1990 in North Kordofan, West Sudan. Roya was inherently calm, cool and tolerant. However, what we will remember Roya most for is her razor sharp intellect, her unending curiosity, which was matched by her equally sharp radical, bold and self-effacing sense of humour. She was a voracious reader and critic - often reading, publicly commenting, critiquing and recommending readings to others on her social media channels. She had been known to read and comment on an average to six books a week (on a slow week)!
What made Roya special was she turned her disease into a political issue. Her experience in her own body became her first and most passionate research subject. She reflected deeply on her own experience as a woman with a disability in Sudan - writing prolifically and publicly about her experience and treatment in hospitals, in public spaces and in her professional life. She made her experience in her own body the foundation that underpinned all of her research. She documented hundreds of women's experience living, working and loving in the "margin" - those who are overlooked by the government, policy makers and society at large. She was an avid and respected creator new knowledge that is being used by the women's movement in Sudan and across the global South.
We are just one of many hundreds of people are mourning the passing of Roya - many of whom who never met her in person but have been impacted by her work as a researcher, critic and aspiring thought leader for Southern feminist thinking. She developed and visibilized this research under the the Arabic version of the hashtag #unseenlives.
Long before she died, she shared with a mentor in our Sister community that she hoped when she died, it would be written that she "died after suffering a long illness". Tragically, this is not what happened. However, a few months before she died she also said:
"I won't die. I will be alive in each one of you".
This is, thankfully, imminently true. She will be alive in each of us she knew and in each person she continues to touch with the true insight and reflections in her published work.
Roya, we love you and you will be forever missed as a member of the Sister community.
Written by Fahima Hashim
Fahima Hashim is a Sudanese feminist who has devoted her life to women’s equality and rights, particularly young women, in Sudan, parts of Africa and the Middle East. She has over 30 years of experience working on social movements, reproductive rights, violence against women and peace. Fahima was a visiting scholar at the Feminist Research Centre at York University in Toronto, Canada in 2015. In Sudan, she served as the Director for Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre from inception in 1997 until the Sudanese government closed it in June 2014. Fahima is regularly featured as a speaker in global conferences and forums.