On the occasion of the International Women's Day today, women in Khartoum demanded an end to the wars in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains in Kordofan, and the Blue Nile, and justice in Sudan.
The Sudanese women celebrated the Women’s Day this year with the motto, “Yes to peace, no to war, yes to freedoms, no to the closure of civil society organisations, and no to elections,” the chairwoman of the Women's Union, Dr Adila El Zebag, told Radio Dabanga.
The women launched appeals to the international community and international human rights organisations to support the Sudanese women, who suffer from widespread violence, especially in the war regions. They stressed that perpetrators of rape are to be held accountable, "case by case".
“Our hearts are with the women in war zones, who suffer from displacement and sexual violence”, El Zebag said, calling for “more solidarity, steadfastness, and resistance among women”.
Dr Nemat Kuku, a women's rights activist, said that the freedoms for women have declined since last year. “Besides, the laws in Sudan are degrading and humiliating for women, especially for women who are working on the streets and at the markets, trying to earn a living by selling tea and food.
Kuku appealed to the Sudanese media to highlight the issues and violations of Sudanese women, “in particular of those in the war zones in Darfur, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile”.
Security and justice
In Darfur, the displaced women living in the camps demanded protection and security.
An activist working in the field of women's rights, commented to Radio Dabanga from Kassab camp in Kutum locality, North Darfur, that the women in Darfur are the most affected by the war, the violence, rapes, and beatings by militiamen and government forces since 2003.
She called on the UN Security Council to pressure the government to stop the war and bring the perpetrators of rape crimes to justice.
North Darfuri Hawa Abdallah Mohamed Salih, who received the International Women of Courage Award in 2012, told Radio Dabanga from Washington that she is proud of the women “who stay strong in Sudan, in particular those in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and the Blue Nile”.
Salih, who is known in Sudan as Hawa Jango, worked for years in the Abu Shouk camp for the displaced in North Darfur. She was detained several times by security forces, and tortured and raped before she managed to flee the country in 2011.
She strongly condemned the rape of more than 200 women and girls by army soldiers in Tabit, North Darfur, last October, “an atrocious crime that shocked the world”, and stressed that the issues of Sudanese women need “top priority”.
The women activist stated that “if women in Sudan will not be involved in decision-making, they will continue to live this painful life”. She stressed the importance of holding rapists accountable, and demanded via Radio Dabanga from the UN and the Security Council to protect women and children in conflict areas, and to stop the systematic violence against them.
In marking International Women’s Day and 20 years since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, UN Women in Khartoum hosted a wide-ranging panel discussion and art exhibition at the Corinthia Hotel. The event was joined by representatives from the Sudanese government, the AU, the UN Country Team, and the Canadian Embassy.
The panel examined the legacy of the Beijing Declaration in Sudan and “the way forward”, according to an information note, issued by UN Women.
Among the panel speakers was Amal Gasim Ahmed, Director of the General Directorate of Women and Family Affairs. “Today is an opportunity to review and assess the indicators and present suggestions, recommendations and decisions,” she said, emphasising the importance of rural development as a necessity for women’s empowerment.
This call was echoed by Ahfad University Professor Balghis Badri, who lauded “grassroots movements powered by young female activists”. She added that proper access to education and health services for young women are the best means by which their communities can succeed.
Badri also outlined a way forward in empowering women, through strengthening the legal and policy frameworks for women’s rights, changing mindsets and crafting integrated packages of development interventions.
Ambassador Mahmoud Kane, Representative of the AU in Sudan, highlighted the need for joint efforts by all stakeholders to break barriers and forge lasting peace. “The AU in Sudan has been facilitating several issues including peace talks and the National Dialogue,” he said. “We always urge negotiators to increase the involvement of women in these discussions. The work of women in resolving conflicts in extremely important. Because women are the first victims of conflict.”
This call for collective action was also reflected in the national launch of UN Women’s global “HeForShe” campaign. UN Acting Resident Coordinator, Geert Cappalaere, led male guests in signing up for the initiative, which aims to encourage greater involvement by men in promoting gender equality.
Photo below: The panel organised by UN Women in Khartoum on the occasion of the International Women's Day, 8 March 2015 (UN Women)