Women bear the brunt of suffering in Sudan
Today, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, women leaders across Sudan and Darfur speak to Radio Dabanga of the complex social situations faced by women in the country, who are still vulnerable to violence, counter-violence and serious violations of privacy.
One of the women leaders of the camps for the displaced in North Darfur told Radio Dabanga of the suffering of displaced women in Darfur. She says that insecurity and vulnerability to physical and sexual violence by armed militias is a constant concern. She also cited the spread of disease, malnutrition among pregnant mothers, lack of health and education services, and wage discrimination.
“Displaced women are routinely subject to rape and physical assaults by armed militiamen when they leave the camps for work or to collect firewood or straw.
“The displaced women also suffer because of reduction in food rations and rising prices of food and consumer goods. Health care is severely lacking after the government expelled the humanitarian organisations working in the health sector. Illiteracy rates are very high.”
'...girls are kept at home to help their mother with household chores and other domestic tasks...'
The woman elder said that most girls stop going to school after the fifth level because of the high school fees that displaced families struggle to pay. “The girls are also kept at home to help their mother with household chores and other domestic tasks.”
Picture: Women in Darfur (File photo)
Awatif Abdelrahman Ishag, the secretary-general of displaced women of South Darfur says that most of the women in the displacement camps cannot afford bread since the government expelled the organisations supporting the displaced.
She says that malnutrition has led to the death of high numbers of children and young girls. “The militia attacks still threaten women’s work and source of livelihood."
She explained that some displaced women have died in order to protect their honour, and appealed to the men of Darfur to bring a stop to the attacks, rape, and violation of women rights.
Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile
In Sudan’s other war zones in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, Najwa Musa, a civil society leader for the Two Areas appealed to the women of the world for solidarity, defy difficulties for change, and fight for the full rights of women and realisation of women's education.
“The women of the Two Areas are experiencing the most intense suffering in the light of the continuing war, yet they celebrate International Women's Day every year and send messages to the world's women from under trees to reflect their suffering.”
'... in an environment of constant war, women lose the opportunity to prepare themselves to play their full role in society and achieve their goals and dreams...'
She laments that “in an environment of constant war, women lose the opportunity to prepare themselves to play their full role in society and achieve their goals and dreams. Women are affected most by war, especially during the aerial bombardments, as 40% of the victims of war are women and children.
“Women are also severely psychologically traumatised. It is they who must see the burning houses and child victims of the bombing.
Picture: Women take cover from aerial bombardments in the caves of the Nuba Mountains (File photo)
Also, Musa pointed to the high mortality rate among pregnant women of the Two Areas due to the lack of health care and hospitals.
Regarding war repercussion, she said the aerial bombardment have left bad psychological effect among women and children, especially the women who directly watch child victims and burning of houses. “Once peace is realised, psychotherapy must be provided for women and children.”
Musa also condemned the high incidence of domestic violence against women “and because of a lack of awareness, they cannot achieve their legal right in the event of violence against them. This includes early marriage and female genital mutilation.
She appealed for the need for deterrent legislation to prevent these customs. Musa also appealed “to the women in developed countries to stand with their sisters in under-developed countries by providing them with educational opportunities and enabling them to express their problems.
Dr Zeinab Kabashi, the head of the Popular Front for Liberation and Justice, said that “the women in East Sudan continue to suffer from marginalisation and have become a model for suffering and abuse.
“The state takes advantage of the absence of the media and the weakness of the feminist community to practice the worst abuses known to the Sudanese community.
In Khartoum, journalist Sabah Adam, the wife of detainee Dr Mudawi Ibrahim, said “International Women's Day passes while women in Sudan are suffering in an extremely tragic situation”.
Main picture: Detained Dr Mudawi Ibrahim, Insert: His wife, journalist Sabah Adam (File photos)
She appealed to the international community to shoulder its responsibility: “The arbitrary arrest of heads of families makes women shoulder dual responsibility of motherhood and child care.”
Journalist Madiha Abdullah said “no progress has been made in the women’s situation in Sudan. There has been a retreat from some poor gains because of the absence of organised work.”
'The arbitrary arrest of heads of families makes women shoulder dual responsibility of motherhood and child care.'
She says that the women’s agenda has not been organised and have been affected by the split experienced by civil and political society organisations.
“Women’s issues are similar throughout all parts of Sudan, but have not been organised.” She suggested the creation of a joint programme for all women sectors and work to overcome differences for the interests of Sudanese women, and the repeal of all the laws that violate women's rights.
Awadiya Khamis, head of the Union for Women Food and Beverage Sellers in Khartoum, who has been acknowledge and awarded internationally for her work among this particularly marginalised group of women, appealed to the government authorities to stand with the working women.
Picture: Awadiya Khamis, head of the Union for Women Food and Beverage Sellers and winner of the 2016 US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award (File photo)
Khamis says that through the Union, more than 8,000 women who have managed to graduate through their work more than 5,000 of their sons and daughters from universities in various disciplines.”
'Our Union has aspirations for a better future for working women'
She praised the role of women “who steadfastly defy the difficulties in order to provide a decent living for their families”.
Khamis says that she views the 2016 US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award she received last year as a victory for Sudanese women.
“Our Union has aspirations for a better future for working women, as it has started to train women so as to work in various professional disciplines such as electricity, driving, as well as the hotel and tourism sector”.
Khamis appealed to the government authorities to stand with them.
Picture: A woman tea seller in Khartoum (File photo)
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