Shima Bhare Abdalla has never known the luxury and comfort of a stable and safe existence inside her country’s borders. When she was 11, her village was attacked and razed to the ground, sending her family and entire neighborhood scattering into an internally displaced People’s Camp, at the start of the Darfur civil war.
That was in 2002. Shima and her family relocated into Kalma refugee camp in Southern Darfur, where, alongside over 100,000 other displaced persons, they had to forge out a living, under the watch and benevolence of the United Nations – African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID. It is here that Shima’s human rights consciousness came to life. She enthusiastically embraced whatever little education she could access under the auspices of the humanitarian agencies operating in the camp, to be able to tell the story of her people’s plight.
In 2011, Shama escaped South into newly independent South Sudan, where she spent the next two years organizing fellow Sudan refugees to secure formal refugee status and protection from the South Sudan government. The effort was in vain, and in 2013, her and five other colleague human rights defenders (HRDs) crossed further south into Uganda, where they purposed to complete their education. Sharma sought and was granted admission into Cavendish University, where she studied International Relations and Diplomacy, graduating in 2017.
While she pursued school, Shama used her free time to look for and network with other Sudan exiles in Uganda, especially those from Darfur. In 2014, her and other women formed Sudan Women for Peace and Development Association (SWPDA), with a view of reaching out to and supporting colleague Sudan women exiled in Uganda. She and other youth from the Fur community – the biggest indigenous community in Darfur that suffered most of the brunt of the civil war back home also formed a Fur community-based organisation(CBO) in Kampala, dedicated to welcoming Fur youth displaced by the violence.
Shima’s growing influential role in the exiled Sudanese HRD community in Uganda soon got her on the radar of her tormentors back home in Sudan, who started sending her threatening messages warning her to stop her organizing work in the Sudan HRD community. Faced with the reactivated threats, she confided in a colleague who linked her up with DefendDefenders.
As a new organization interested in human rights work, DefendDefenders also took the trouble to take Shima and her colleagues at SWPDA through the basics of human rights defending, including advocacy, and the relevant laws and institutional instruments.
Shima is now fairly settled in Uganda. The two organizations she helped found, SWPDA and the Fur CBO have firmly taken root thanks to a committed membership, and support from partners like DefendDefenders. Along the way, she also found love, and is now a happily married mother of three.