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TheEastAfrican.co.ke: Holding up half the revolution…without representation!

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Friday, 31 May 2019

Sudan protest

Sudanese women wave national flags as they take part in a sit-in outside Sudan's army headquarters in Khartoum on May 5, 2019. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP 

ALICE WAIRIMU NDERITU
By ALICE WAIRIMU NDERITU
Friday May 31 2019

If to the victors go the spoils, a sense of anxiety looms among the women of Sudan as the world awaits an agreement between the forces of freedom and change and the Transitional Military Council of Sudan.

Photos of the negotiators draw gasps, not because of the opulence of the room so removed from the street protests, the gilded chandeliers reflecting light onto the polished table, the warm carpets or soft leather chairs, but the total absence of women.

How ironic that "the revolution of the hungry" whose image is symbolised by a woman, engineering and architecture student Alaa Salah, representing the fact of Sudanese women being at the forefront of protests against the al-Bashir government, has excluded women from the political dialogue that is deciding Sudan's future! Attempts at persuading those in the boardroom to ensure gender parity in the representation have not been successful.

Beyond ironic, the exclusion of Sudanese women is also dangerous as shown by nations like Libya and Yemen where women were instrumental in revolutions but were excluded from the official processes that followed. The result has been unsustainable peace efforts.

Political dialogues are widely misunderstood, worldwide, as security issues. Since men dominate the security sector, women are either under-represented or left out entirely.

Yet, growing research and experience proves women's meaningful inclusion is crucial to building enduring peace.

Women of all ages have organised and participated in the Sudan protests, many saying that they had waited all of their lives for a moment such as this.

The lives of Sudanese women had become impossibly difficult as oppression became part of their daily lives through restrictive laws dictating, among other things, what they should wear and where they could go.

Inflation, rising fuel and bread prices sustained the revolution's power. The Sudanese people have protested consistently since December, calling for representative democracy, resulting in the ouster of president al- Bashir even as dozens were being killed and hundreds arrested.

CNN's Nima Elbagir carried a report of women protestors intentionally targeted by the police with instructions to "break the girls because if you break the girls you break the men.”

The Sudanese Professionals Association spearheading the protests has demanded that women make up 40 Per cent of any civilian transitional authority to replace the proposed military transitional council. Half of Sudan’s 40 million people are women.

There is a history to all this. When the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, Sudan was among the countries that declined to sign it.

CEDAW guarantees women equal rights and protection from discrimination. The political dialogue provides a critical opportunity to reshape the political, security and broader socio-economic landscape of Sudan.

Research has proven that women’s perspectives advance broader issues of social justice, building peace beyond the negotiating table, economic recovery and social cohesion.

Often, this is because they are the only ones willing to identify and address issues that were at the root of conflict in the first place.

Women’s inclusion can provide an opportunity to examine and address gender power relations that have contributed to oppressive past policies and laws towards women in Sudan, and held back the country as a whole.

Meaningful inclusion would see a gender-balanced delegation at every set of talks.

Potentially conflict-inducing elements remain in Sudan. Moving forward, crafting a Sudan without women's input will ensure that peace remains artificial at best.

In this, arrangement, potentially explosive issues such as access to resources and the differences that led to violent conflict are elevated.

Those sitting in the boardroom are there because of the confluence of support from women and men. They must reassess the core assumptions on women within a transitional justice setting. Key to these assumptions is inclusion.

*Wairimu Nderitu is the author of Beyond Ethnicism, and Kenya: Bridging Ethnic Divides. E-mail: info@mdahalo.org

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