Muna Eltahir


Muna Eltahir is Country Director for Practical Action in Sudan. She has a long history of experience in the field of development, working with DfID, Netherlands Embassy, UNDP, UNOCHA, ADRA and the Windle Trust. She also has degrees in Economics and Human Resource Development, and an MSc in International Community Development.

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Posts by Muna

  • Success story of a water initiative

    April 19th, 2017

    Haladete-East is a village located 40 km North from the city of Kassala, Eastern Sudan. It is a home of over 4,800 people, from which 2,850 are women. This is a story of an amazing water initiative that benefited not only one family but the entire village of Haladete-East!

    Access to water has always been a serious problem in Haladete-East. Because there was no water nearby, people had to walk every day nearly three hours, through deserted roads, to collect water. Their only source of water was a remote hand-pump that was unreliable. The walks to collect water were tough and because of the heavy weight, only limited amount of water could be brought back to the village. Because of this, water could only be used to absolute necessities such as cooking and drinking.

    To solve the problem, Practical Action launched a project called Aqua4East. The project, funded by DFID, aimed to improve the water security for the benefit of the whole community. To do this, Practical Action needed to build a water tank that would be big enough to provide water for 4800 people!

    The first step in the project was to identify a location with a steady underground water supply (through hydrological studies and water catchment surveys). This ensured that the water supply would not run dry – even during the driest times. Once the right location was selected, Practical Action build the water tank, including two different distribution stations. One station was for women and the other for men. Each station included six water taps.

    What makes this project so special, is the substantial community engagement. With the help of Practical Action, people living in the village established a Water Committee that looked after the management of the water distribution, including financial management and preparations should a damage occur.

    Because of the Aqua for East initiative, the life of the people living in Haladete-East is now easier, healthier, more dignified and joyful. To summarise:

    1. People do not need to walk long distances to collect water anymore. They now have an easy access to clean water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. In addition, small scale farming and animal farming have benefited from the secured water supply.

    2. The initiative has had a tremendous impact on improved hygiene. Villagers are now able to wash their hands and shower more often, to do laundry and clean their homes. Furthermore, the food is less contaminated and diet more healthier due to in-house cultivated vegetables.

    3. More girls are going to school instead of collecting water. In addition, they have more time to socialise and participate in income generating activities.

    Nafish O’shak, one of the villagers, said: Before, the community health promoters used to give us strong hygiene advice, but without water we could not do what we were advised to do. Now we have sufficient water and we are very hygienic. Our clothes, food and houses are extremely clean.

    Is that a revolutionary impact or what?

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  • Goodbye, Simon Welcome, Paul

    September 17th, 2015

    As a newcomer to Practical Action, the initial fear I experienced was: how to cope with staff members, how to maintain great performance and how meet the expectations of my colleagues. Then, these fears took another form: how will the organization cope? Would it be possible “as an organization” to continue to grow and meet our targets the way we intend, after the departure of Simon, our ship captain?

    Simon TraceThe departure of Simon brought forth mixed feelings, mostly worrying and disappointment. The worries were towards the organization, because I knew for a fact that Practical Action will lose a person who is greatly enthusiastic, seriously committed and significantly professional. The disappointment was more personal; as I knew that I was losing out on the chance of gaining from his valuable knowledge and rich experiences, which he acquired prior to and during his time in Practical Action.

    Simon is type of a leader who will always bring different prospects and views to the table; a talent that allows others to broaden their minds, while helping them in seeing new potentials and simultaneously increasing their creative capacity.

    I respect Simon’s decision, and hope that he will embark on a more advanced professional journeys, where he will undoubtedly make a phenomenal contribution as he has done with Practical Action.

    Paul Smith LomasAfter the appointment of the new Chief Executive Officer, Paul, the fear, worry and disappointment vanished, due to Paul’s profound commitment to the philosophy of Practical Action, his professional capacity as well as his leadership skills.

    I am happy for Paul, as I know that he is capable of setting the sail to keep the ship going as strongly as ever towards its destination.

    Simon and Paul, both, hired me and have given me all the support I need to promote my self-confidence and self-esteem in my professional path; I will forever be grateful to both of them.

    Goodbye, Simon and Welcome, Paul!

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  • Towards Technology Justice – how far is it?

    September 14th, 2015

    A couple of years ago, I was captivated by two photos sent to me by a friend through social media networks. The two photos are attached side by side as one photo; it portrays a contrast between two groups of people queuing. One group’s queue was to purchase the latest version of the iPhone, while the other group’s queue was for reaching a hand-pump to fetch water for their personal everyday uses -showering, cleaning, cooking etc.

    Recently, after joining Practical Action, I have developed an understanding of what technology justice entails, making me look at the same photo from a new perspective. Moreover, I was inspired by a speech by our CEO, Simon Trace, at our Supporters’ Day last June in the UK.

    Simon told a story, comparing how he spends his day in his home in the UK, and how a farmer in a faraway village in Nepal spends his. Later, I imagined the story of the first group as “one community” and the same for the other group, as another “one community”.

    The first community members typically start their day by the sound of an alarm and the swift sound of their heater or air-conditioning, which would have been on overnight. They pull themselves out of a comfortable bed and take a shower by setting the preferred temperature of the water. They use a kettle for heating their water for tea or coffee and they begin reading the news on their smartphones, or watching it on TV, while having a nutritional breakfast on the side. Then, they make their way to work, by driving their personal vehicles, or taking accessible and punctual public transportation. At work, they will have the same facilities that are available at home: toilets, kitchen and advanced computers/laptops or any relevant advanced tools to help them get their jobs done. After their workday comes to an end, they clock out and take the same route back home to enjoy the same set of technologies.

    Collecting water from a hafir in SudanOn the other hand, members of the second community start their day to the sound of roosters or cows, who live in close proximity, or are woken by the heavy smoke of the firewood which burnt overnight to warm their space. They get up from a half-broken bed, or a bed on the ground made out of dry grass. Then they take a long walk to fetch water for showering and more importantly, for making food, and to collect firewood to prepare their meals.  TV and radio are not options because electricity is not available. In addition to fetching water and firewood, they milk their cow or goat and still hardly have enough for breakfast. Then, they take another long walk to work. Usually work involves tasks and jobs that require a substantial amount of labour and effort since there are almost no tools or technology to help. In addition, they earn a limited income that is not enough to fulfill the basic needs of their day-to-day lives. At the end of a long, laborious day they walk back home to face the same situation as in the morning.

    These are the stories of a typical day for two communities, existing in the same world. If we go beyond daily and basic activities, we will begin to analyse the bigger picture that shows education opportunities, awareness prospects, health services, or lack thereof, and social exposure and inclusion and not to mention, leisure and entertainment.

    Through this, I realized how important and essential Technology Justice is and how it can transform the lives of people, giving them prosperity beyond their dreams. At the same time, I acknowledge that the road we have to walk through to reach ultimate justices of technology is a very long one, filled with challenges.

    As we celebrate our 50th anniversary and great achievements, we are overwhelmed with pride of our accomplishments in the past half a century. But reality tell us that we have achieved very little compared to what is  yet to be achieved.

    I, now, understand very well why Fritz Schumacher believed strongly  in the important role that technology can play in lifting people out of poverty. What always raises my level of optimism, however, is seeing that through our continuously increasing knowledge, through brokering and through influencing policies and practices, we can certainly make more advanced achievements at a faster pace.

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  • The long road to equality for women

    March 7th, 2015

    International Women’s Day is of paramount importance to all of us here in Sudan and for the world in general. If we look at our contribution and the importance of women in life, I think we deserve to celebrate them not just once a year, but every day, every hour, every second that we live.

    In Practical Action today we are launching a new gender policy which will have four minimum standards that should be applied to all activities undertaken by Practical Action all over the world.

    In Practical Action we believe that all women and men, girls and boys should have the means and freedoms to achieve their rights, including being able to choose and use technologies that assist them in leading the kind of life they value.

    When we look at the current women’s status around the world and especially Sudan, we realise we have a very long road to walk to reach our destination.

    • The destination where all women are economically empowered and have the right to decide where to go and what to do freely.Women blue nile stoves sudan
    • The destination where husband(s) understand that marriage is a partnership and companionship not exploitation and manipulation.0
    • The destination when the parents do not automatically choose the son over the daughter to get an education, which is entirely unjustified, but it should be fair and based on comprehensible reasons of ability, skills, ambition, enthusiasm and commitment.
    • The destination where the family law and all other laws obtain equal rights for women and men.
    • The destination where the Female Genital Mutilation is in the rubbish bin of history and the sexual rights of women are granted.
    • The destination where the basic maternity health care is provided to ALL pregnant and lactating women.

    We need to look at each vulnerable woman as a representation of all women, and all the time we have is just now, and this is the best way to reach the destination and to make our dream a reality.

    I guess this is a very long journey we are on, even longer than the journey Nelson Mandela took to attain his vision. Indeed, I strongly believe we can reach it.

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