and the Peace-building Process
In addition to the implementation
of Sharia law in Sudan, women’s rights in Sudan suffered as a result of the ongoing 21 year conflict between the Sudanese
Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) which left more than two million people dead and uprooted
some four million across the vast African nation. As in many wars, Sudan’s women suffered disproportionately.
“They Lost fathers, brothers, husbands and sons to fighting and forced conscription,
and were even occasionally frontline soldiers themselves. All too often, women along with their children suffered at the hands
of combatants who perpetrated terrible crimes against them, such as forced displacement, rape abduction and slavery.”
Despite these atrocities, thousands
of women remained involved in the armed conflict. Their roles in the conflict ranged from combatants to providers of support
to fighters, including feeding and caring for sick and wounded soldiers. Women also took a leading role in creating links
and forums for resolving inter-ethnic conflict, leading to many grassroots peace accords. However, despite the active role
women played at various levels to bring peace to the Sudan, their role was underestimated or ignored during negotiations.
The SPLM/A leadership nominated a handful of women leaders as members of the delegation to Machakos and
subsequent rounds of negotiations. However, this did not necessarily enable their strong participation: the women were often
co-opted to these delegations at short notice with very little opportunity to consult with each other and develop a women's
peace agenda; they were expected to contribute to the overall party position which was gender-blind to begin with; and they
were always a minority, ill-prepared for debates with seasoned politicians who ridiculed or intimidated anyone who dared to
spend much time on gender issues.
It was not until the final stages
of negotiations that women’s groups were able to organize and pressure both sides to adopt a gender-conscious peace
process. Part of their success was attributed to assistance from US-supported NGOs like the National Democratic Institute
(NDI) who conducted a series of workshops in 2004 for women to build the capacity and to develop the skills necessary to play
an active role in the government as well as the peace building process. As a result, gender empowerment was regarded as a
requisite tool of international peace building. The final Comprehensive Peace Agreement had over 70 sections in the that refer to women, including the recognition
of gender-based violence and the recommendation that women be involved in drafting legislation.