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KHARTOUM -- The United Nations Population Fund in Sudan is proud to announce the hiring of Ms. Alaa Elmedani, the first female driver for the organization in the Arab region.

Elmedani was hired after an exhaustive search process to find the most qualified female drivers in Sudan. Drivers are a male dominated profession and it is UNFPA’s mission to promote gender equality.

“The most important thing is self-confidence and the knowledge that women and men can do any work. There is no difference between them,” Elmedani said.

Breaking barriers is nothing new for Elmedani. Previously, she worked as a driving instructor in Saudi Arabia teaching women how to drive.

“I was very happy when they got their license because I could help them. It was like a dream for Saudi women,” Elmedani said.

The hiring process began with a decision by the senior UNFPA leadership in Sudan and the Arab region to seek out a female driver.

"Gender norms and personal connections mean that women don't get or don't apply for jobs that they are qualified for. We have to tackle these gender barriers by creating special hiring practices," said Massimo Diana, the UNFPA representative in Khartoum. "We didn't hire Alaa just because she is a woman. We hired her because she is the best candidate and she happens to be a woman."

Since the 2019 revolution, women have gained new freedoms in Sudan. The moral policing law that controlled women was overturned by the new transitional government. Women play an important role in the transitional government.

Still more work needs to be done to make sure that women receive proper representation in Sudan. Forty percent of Sudan's national legislature will be comprised of women once it is created.

Sona Lakhanpal, the head of human resources for UNFPA in the Arab region, said that tackling gender norms requires creating specialized hiring practices.

“Deliberately expanding the applicant pool to get diverse candidates helps organizations get better employees,” Lakhanpal said. “We also need to provide specialized human resources capacity to Alaa to make sure the transition is smooth.”

Elmedani knows that she is a small part of women who are changing gender norms in Sudan.

“I would like to say to every woman that you are part of the community and you can do any thing,” she said. “A healthy society is free of prejudice against women.”