Powering through the Pandemic: How Do Our Female Staff Find the Motivation to Be At the Frontlines?

Thursday 11 March 2021


When it comes to the theme of women in leadership and building a future in a COVID-19 world, Alaa Basheer, Child Protection and Child Rights Governance Program Manager at the Sudan Country Office comes to mind. What motivates her to lead the way, be at the frontline of responses and making a difference in the lives of children?

In the photo above,  Alaa is stitting with Ethiopian refugee children assessing their needs. Despite the language barrier, she insisted on knowing what kind of activities they would like to do, and what changes they would like to see to improve Save the Children’s child-friendly space in Um Rakuba Refugee Camp.

Basheer found alternative ways to overcome this; “I can’t say working at Um Rakuba is easy and I can't say it's difficult; it’s different,” she said. “What’s nice is that while some spoke a little bit of English, and some spoke a little bit of Arabic, we would draw pictures – they would express themselves and show me the games they’re playing through drawings. Um Rakuba was two hours away from Gedaref, and we went back and forth everyday – but it was worth it!”

Prior to the refugee response in Gedaref, Basheer – who joined the organization on International Women’s Day last year – was working in the COVID-19 response in April and May (Ramadan) of that year, where she was the only female staff on her team. The intervention took place in Khalawi (religion school) in Khartoum and Omdurman. The main activities included medical checkups for children, COVID-19 awareness sessions and sanitizer and soap distributions.

Then, suddenly, she felt the much-dreaded symptoms and learned that she was infected with COVID-19. When she received her results, she had a breakdown. “Frankly speaking, I was terrified. My dad was also infected. I kept thinking about the children in the Khalawi, my team, my family and how I may have infected them, how the children’s immunity was already weak,” she revealed. “But then, everyone from work was so supportive – I don’t think I would’ve survived without their support. That’s when my fear started disappearing.”

The young manager says when we talk about Save the Children in Sudan, it’s not just about the professional environment. “It’s more of a family environment,” she said. “Everyone has everyone’s back. We care about each other’s wellbeing. This is what motivated me.”

It was through this reassuring attitude that she was able to find inspiration.

“It made me more committed to performing better,” she responds. “It made me think of how I can replicate and reflect what I was offered from my colleagues back to my work.”

There is no doubt that for any staff member to be at the frontline, they need to be motivated by their work. However, for women, especially, to be and do so, they need to break through the barriers and obstacles that keep them from exceling in professional life - what women need to be offered are supportive environments and teams that believes in their unwavering strength, capacities and ability to fight for themselves and others.