Sundus Hamza Abbas is a role model for many women in the region. Why you might ask? Her involvement in human rights and women’s rights campaigns in the region have made her one of the most influential people in the country. Having worked in I.T for many years, her life changing decision was to embark on another career path in helping others. Sundus tells us all about her past, beginnings, and how she feels about current situations in the region.
About Sundus “Multi-tasking and juggling can take us just so far.” Sundus tells us when we ask how she does it all! “We are lucky in this region because of the support that we have. Without some kind of backup, it is not possible to simultaneously combine and optimally perform the role of mother, homemaker, and wife with a full time professional career easily or conveniently.” Men do shoulder some of the burden at times, but women are doing most of the work with respect to the children and the homemaking.
When Sundus was a young girl, she thought she had it all figured out. She chose a job that was more realistic and can fit the bill, she had worked in the field of IT for 20 years. Later on she rediscovered what she should actually be doing, and that had introduced renewed energy back into her life. Her work is built around her passion to help people, and now she does that on a daily basis with Abolish153 and Eithar. With some fine-tuning, Sundus believes that everyone can find the “buried treasure” she calls it, in a second career path that nurtures their primary passion. “If there is a magic formula for happiness, it lies deep within our own blueprint of ourselves. Each woman is unique, and each defines success and happiness on her own terms.”
Sundus’s beginnings Sundus beautifully played the role of a guardian, since her early years; she is a twin and the need to protect her sister under all circumstances drove her to excel in this role. Sundus has evolved a great deal, no doubt, but it is this drive to excel, to protect, to stand up for those she loves, that continues to shape her future.
During the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, Sundus fled to London with her family, however, she refused to stay idle and joined the “Free Kuwait Campaign”, becoming one of the group’s official spokesperson, spreading awareness of the dire situation of her beloved country and seeking immediate intervention that would help spare innocent civilians from harm.
After the Liberation of Kuwait, Sundus came back as part of the Red Crescent Rescue Team. She chose to work with the Social Care Center to help out with the Core of Engineers, moved by their relentless efforts to especially help the elderly, the young ones and the disabled. “I knew that their job was to help rebuild Kuwait’s infrastructure, but their unwavering support and assistance to all, with total impartiality and neutrality became my inspiration. I learnt then that humanitarian actions must be independent of political, economic, military or other objectives.”
What drives you? Equality and fairness. Sundus was raised as a person, not as a girl, because her dad had always believed in gender equality. She realized from early on that if parents had the strength to raise daughters more like sons, then it is about time we all have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.
Sundus tells us, “I accept that men and women are different, but only in their nature, we are all graced with the power of strength, subtly, of giving and receiving, we can strive to complement each other in our shared struggle to improve life, taking advantage of our abilities to create a better world for our children.”
Gender equality is an important topic to Sundus, she feels as if equality between men and women
is still on the wish-list and in 2018 we have achieved very little progress. Women continue to work hard to prove themselves in the face of adversity and hurdles in a male-dominated society. ‘Equality is something that feminists want!’ is the notion in most minds. What women are asking for is to feel heard and respected, to be paid the same wages for the same work. Just because a woman demands respect does not mean she objects to being challenged intellectually; she wants a voice and a seat at the table, that doesn’t mean she wants to silence men; she wants to lead, doesn’t mean she wants men to step aside. Co-lead. Co-create.
What angers you the most? Injustice. Since the liberation of Kuwait and her commitment towards social justice and anti-oppressive work, Sundus has witnessed economic inequality by gender and background, inability to accept diversity in the country, oppression to advocacy of marginalized groups, the intolerance and rejection of those who are different from ourselves. “It angers and saddens me;” she says, “Whereas Islam teaches us humility so that we can work in partnership with others.”
Sundus has, however, managed to channel these emotions towards working with various social organizations that allowed her to use all the resources available to advance the rights of those who do not share our own identities or backgrounds and to reduce discrimination. She was proud to assist organizations such as “Kuwait Childs Rights Society” to help children who are abused, neglected, and just plain unwanted. KCRS was involved in the passing of the Child Rights Law in May 2015, after 10 years of struggle.
Domestic help involvement, and what do you think needs to be changed? To better understand the world we live in, Sundus also wanted to understand the plight of domestic workers who end up in hospitals, prisons and deportation camps, sometimes simply because of the “Iqama” issue. She joined forces with “Bait Al-Khidma” and was stunned having personally worked with foreign domestic workers who experienced exploitative working conditions, unlawfully deprived by employers from basic needs like food, water, sleep, bathroom access, and exposed to physical violence, sexual and verbal abuse, as punishment for minor or non-existent mistakes. The lack of laws further exposes them to human rights abuses and restricts their access to help and support.
“This work greatly affected and changed me. We importantly need to change the way we treat workers in our country. Just because they work in our homes doesn’t make them less human. They are not our property, they work just like us, and have rights that need to be enforced.”
Women empowerment issues Did you know that an estimated 30% of women in the Middle East and North Africa have experienced physical violence by men at some point in their lives?” Now that hit us hard! “How can one talk about women empowerment when women live under such conditions?” Sundus asks. Society must condemn and criminalize domestic violence. We have to have laws that prohibits all forms of violence against women including physical, psychological, sexual or economic, and enforces either imprisonment or financial penalties.
Sundus: Weakness and Strengths She believes her weakness is her attachment to her daughters and her nieces. Sundus tends to hover and manage their activities and social interactions. Whilst her strengths, basically being a supermom! “I am a hands-on working mum and I am proud of it.” She tells us, “As a parent I try to influence my two daughters Noor and Jude by showing them how to be true to themselves and encouraging them not to give up their convictions just to maintain a false harmony with their peers. It’s important to show them that strength comes in being beautiful inside out, by being kind and generous, thoughtful towards others, and willing to give of themselves
“Together, we live by example I guess, raising our daughters to believe in the inherent rights of all people, regardless, and to value our precious Earth.”