7 October 2019

Women’s political empowerment critical for a democratic, peaceful and inclusive Sudan

Throughout Sudan’s tumultuous history of revolutions against dictatorships, racism, and war, Sudanese women have long been held back from actively participating in politics. To promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, Ahfad University for Women, United Nations Academic Impact SDG Hub for Gender Equality, hosted a seminar entitled “Women’s role in Civil Government” and met with a High-Level Delegation from the African Union.

The seminar, led by Professor Balghis Badri of the Regional Institute of Gender, Diversity, Peace, and Rights at Ahfad University focused on the active participation of women in government. 83 people were in attendance, including Dr.Tamadur Khalid of UNICEF, female activists, NGO representatives and politicians. 

The discussion addressed female activism in Sudan and examined the ways in which informal advocacy can be translated into a formal body dedicated to addressing women’s needs and demands. As a result of this seminar, Professor Badri prepared a proposal for a Gender and Women’s Commission, outlining its vision, mission, functions and organizational structure. A group of gender experts reviewed the proposal and shared it with participants for further development. The final paper was then submitted to the Prime Minister of Sudan Abdalla Hamdok. Overall, participants are hopeful that with a new democratic government, the Gender and Women’s Commission will be formed based on their proposal.

In addition to organizing the seminar, in August 2019 Ahfad University for Women met with a High-Level Delegation from the African Union to discuss the promotion of Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality in Sudan. Members of the delegation include prominent female African leaders, such as  H.E Ms. Catherine Samba Panza, former president of the Central African Republic, Ms. Fatimatou Khatry, former Minister of Mauritania in charge of the promotion of women, child protection and family, and Ambassador Mathu Joyini, Deputy Director-General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Africa. 

Envisioning a democratic, peaceful and inclusive Sudan, the delegation discussed the incorporation of women in decision-making at all levels. Professor Badri of Ahfad University for Women gave a presentation about the diverse ways in which women address gender issues. 

Specifying that women come from a range of socio-economic, ethnic, religious, ideological and generational backgrounds, Professor Badri pointed to the multifaceted and cross-sectional nature of women’s rights. Particularly in Sudan, perspectives on gender issues vary among Arab and African identities, different religious and ideological backgrounds, socialist-communist outlooks, and younger age groups. Amongst these groups, two major discords arise. The first concerns whether the law surrounding women’s issues should be based on religion or secularism. The second is the willingness to ratify international and regional conventions. Nonetheless, all women’s groups call for the promotion of Sudanese Women’s basic needs, and equality in decision-making positions and political participation.

On the basis of this mutual agreement, Profesor Badri called on the African Union Women Commission to hold a conference for Sudanese women to achieve transformation by learning from the best practices of other countries. This conference would support the ratification of African Women’s Rights Protocol and capacity building for women’s groups in areas of leadership, networking and lobbying, and serve as a platform for the exchange of knowledge on women’s roles in achieving transitional justice.