(500 Words Magazine)
We started this magazine two years and some days ago. The idea of the magazine started with a food menu. Flipping through the pages of Solitaire’s then dictionary-like menu, we though of starting a magazine. Mohamed, my co-founder, is a tech guy, and because he’s a techie, suggested we establish the magazine online; and that was our Eureka moment. We had an idea, we had Mohamed to make it happen, we had friends who could write; everything was in place. So we ordered our food and did nothing about it for 16 months. When we eventually launched the magazine our network of writers had grown exponentially, and we had a vibrant online presence through Twitter and other social media outlets.
We were hoping to nurture a young Sudanese writing spirit. I say spirit, because, well, writing is somewhat spiritual. We wanted to get the young and culturally savvy Sudanese to convey their opinion of what they see happening around them from their own perspective. We were curious about what people thought of tea ladies, two-week long weddings, breakfast in the office at 11:30 am, and the driving command of Raksha drivers. We were excited to tap into the minds of the current Sudanese generation, everyone from early twenties and thirties, even forties. It remains important to us that those with no previous writing experience join in and express their views, and continue to contribute and sculpt their talent with the guidance and support of our editorial board.
We were dumbfounded by the diversity and number of Sudanese bloggers, freelance writers, commentators and social philosophers, and wanted to create a common platform. The platform would serve a large community of writers by presenting the stories and theories. We began by reaching out to the loudest voices and wanted them to use our platform to express their views in the way they see fit, to engage and encourage the quieter voices to join the conversation.
We had one limiting factor; and it’s especially limiting because of the nature of the Sudanese states. We limited political writing. This didn’t go down well with some of the contributors, it was clear that some things needed to be, and had to be, said. We, however, think that there are more pressing issues away from politics that need more immediate attention. Let me give you some statistics about Sudan: 70% literacy rate, 46.5% live below the poverty line, 50% of the rural population have access to clean water, 62 life expectancy at birth (world average is 69), and 35% have access to electricity. There are 42 registered universities in Sudan, 12 of which are private; which means there are 30 underfunded universities in Sudan, with instruction primarily in Arabic. It’s estimated that 90% of children in Sudan have access to education, yet limitations are still prevalent with respect to gender, lack of resources, lack of teachers and insufficient instruction salaries.
Yes, discussing these issues in depth will eventually boil down to politics, but what we need to do is start dissecting these issues and see where it takes us. Overlooking the political nature of any problem will reveal systemic foundational issues that need to be identified, analysed and tackled accordingly. Despite the aforementioned data – which is consistently out of date, or partial – there’s a lack of scholarship and analysis on the two Sudans. In the last two years, less than 10 books have been written about Sudan and South Sudan put together. This, along with the political instability in both nations, is part of the problem. Insights into poverty, health care, urbanisation, migration, culture, art, music and education will help pave the way for a brighter, and hopefully more peaceful, future.
This year, in addition to the regular 500 words long articles, we will bring you expert opinion pieces on certain topics of relevance – or non-relevance. We hope to introduce a new debating platform, video interviews, regular columnists, and new editors. All this, mind you, with the hindrance of Sudanese weather. We are confident that this new year will be more exciting than the previous two. So, with no further ado, we’re inviting you to submit your thoughts on the two Sudans, in 500 words, on our newly refurbished website, with confidence that it will get published and will spur a discussion – maybe even solutions to the issues discussed.
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