Sunday saw an interesting discussion on the challenges of performing CPR in a society which separates men and women and in which mouth to mouth contact between genders in public, even a married couple, is illegal.
The participants were given a hypothetical non-breathing male casualty pulled from the water and asked whether they would carry out CPR. The men were confident that they would be able to apply their training. The women were less sure, in particular if the removal of the casualty from the water had caused a crowd of men to gather.
Some of the women pointed out that in that situation, the men were unlikely to let a woman help the casualty, even if she could prove that she was trained to help. A couple of the participants added that in their villages, outside of Khartoum, a woman would be beaten for even coming to look at a casualty pulled from the water, let alone daring to try to touch or help revive them. Still, some of the strongest women in the group were adamant that they would step forward and risk their own personal safety in order to help.
Before the question could be turned on its head and a female casualty considered, one of the woman stood up and gave a speech so impassioned that the power of her words was clear even with no knowledge of Arabic. If the training that she had received allowed her to help save someone’s life, she said, then she did not care what those around her thought of her actions and she would make full use of those skills. Islam, she pointed out, is a religion of compassion. “The opinions of other people do not matter; God will be my judge.” She sat down to thunderous applause.
From that point, the mood of the conversation shifted. There were still concerns about a rescuer being detained by the police but the focus of the conversation was now on overcoming societal obstacles so that every trained person, regardless of gender, could use their skills to help any casualty. One woman observed “This is a problem with Sudanese culture, but we are Sudanese and we make the culture. We do not see this as a problem so we have to change that culture.”
The discussion finished with one of the men asking all the participants to ask their families after the course what they would think if they used their new lifesaving skills to help someone in need, whatever gender they were. They universally agreed that any parent would be proud of their child helping to save another person’s life.
In a segregated country where the risks of putting their training into practice can feel overwhelming, it was humbling to watch the participants work together to come to the conclusion that they could rise above those challenges to save lives and change perspectives in Sudan.