Sudanese Women Panel at the 7th HRC Session

Sudanese Women Speak on Darfur

 

12 March 2008

 

The panel comprised of Ms Halima Yagoob Mohammed, Gender Based Violence Expert; Ms Mariam Alsadig Almahdi, General Secretary Assistant for Communication, Umma National Party; Ms Mona Elshareif Tazorah, Public Health Professional, University of Medical Science and Technology; Ms Mona Mohammed Gumma Khatier, Human Rights Expert; Dr Asma Siddig Adam Abdalla, Klaimendo Development Organisation and Niemat Ahmadai, Representative of the Darfur Leaders Network, USA. Dr Monica Juma, Executive Director, African Policy Institute, chaired the discussion that was attended by more than 50 people from different non-governmental and international organizations as well as government representatives.

 

The panel underscored the need for peace and security in their country in general, and Darfur in particular. All of them recognized the destruction of property and systematic violation of human rights as a situation that was unhealthy and needed to be resolved. They were unanimous on the need to empower all Sudanese women and engender the peace process so that they effectively participate in the search for peace and reconstruction in their country. The women recognized that they were poorly represented in peace negotiating teams/missions because, among other things, they lacked the capacity for effective participation. They appealed to civil and international organizations to help build their capacity so that they could add their voice to the peace efforts in Sudan.

 

The Sudanese women expressed deep concern over the massive displacements that occurred recently in the northern part of west Darfur due to an escalation in violence. They said such acts of forced displacements, constant killings, and acts of sexual violence, were the order of the day in Darfur. Furthermore, the recent events resulted in secondary displacement. Hence, the women can not sustain a livelihood because they live in constant fear.

"We, Sudanese women here, are seeking peace, protection, security and sustainability for all people of Sudan. We are not against the Government (of Sudan). We recognize the effort of the Government and the international community but there are some things, such as acts of sexual violence against women, in particular rape, that need attention. If we deny them, we are not healing,” Ms Mona Elsharief Tazorah said during the meeting. These profound words were a testament of people who are feeling the real effects of the conflict.

 

However, the road to peace and justice remains a big challenge, as observed by Ms Niemat Ahmadai, who called upon member states of the Human Rights Council to, not only speed up the deployment of UNAMID (a joint African Union and United Nations hybrid operation), but provide it with adequate capacity and mandate to enable it supervise the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, as well as protect its personnel and civilians. She also felt that UNAMID would provide a trustworthy environment for the warring factions to be able to engage in a legitimate political process at a round table. There was also a call to have a Woman’s Police Force set up to help in providing security in Darfur. Further, she felt that the use of rape as weapon of war has greatly affected women and girls in Darfur and urged the international community to put up measures that would discourage and prohibit the use of rape as a weapon of war.

 

The women also wanted certain Sudanese laws reviewed, which they felt greatly disadvantaged them and infringed on their rights, particularly those that deal with rape. They would like Article 149 of the Sudanese Criminal Act, 1991 to be amended because there was confusion in its interpretation. They would, particularly, like rape to become a separate crime from adultery. In addition, they urged for the review of the family law and for female circumcision to be legislated as a crime.

 

Later that day, in another forum, the women, FAS and World YWCA staff had a chance to meet and have a discussion with Ms Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Sudan, on the situation in Darfur.

Ms Samar undertook to convey these concerns to the UN envoy for the Darfur peace process, Jan Eliasson and his counterpart in the African Union, Salim Ahmed Salim.