Implementing Gender Quotas: Spotlight on Sudan
Women in Sudan's Peace Building Process
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Women 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.”[3]

 

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6] 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.

 

 

 [3] “Stewards of Peace: The Role of Women and Youth in Post-Conflict Sudan.” (2005). National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. http://www.ndi.org/files/1940_su_stewards_111605.pdf

[4] Itto, Ann. (2006). “The Role of Women in Peace Processes.” Conciliation Resources. http://www.c-r.org/our-work/accord/sudan/women.php

[5] Ibid.

 

[6] Pupavac, Vanessa (2005). “Empowering Women? An Assessment of International Gender Policies in Bosnia.” International Peacekeeping. Volume 12, Number 3.