Diplomatic corps, private sector, representatives of civil society and key players called on international organizations, NGOs, regional communities and key stakeholders to support Sudanese women’s efforts to play their legitimate role in the search for peaceful solutions to the conflict in Sudan.
On July 25th, IPI MENA hosted a webinar under the theme “Women in Political Process in Sudan” featuring key-speaker Balghis Badri, Director of the Regional Institute for Gender Studies at Ahfad University for Women in Omdurman, Sudan as well as speakers Rabab Baldo, Senior Gender Advisor for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and Special Envoy for South Sudan at UN WOMEN, and Wafa Mahmoud Salih, co-founder of the ‘Mothers for Sudan’ initiative from the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain.
Opening the conference, IPI MENA Senior Director Nejib Friji reminded the audience that the conflict in Sudan has entered its fourth month and officially passed its 100th day without any resolution towards peace. He noted that more than three million people have been uprooted, including more than 700,000 who have fled to neighboring countries.
“In this tragic and destructive environment, women in Sudanese society are holding together what the war and the warring parties are threatening if not already destroying,” he stressed. “They are keeping the social fabric together in spite of the threat of war.”
“It is vital that we look for solutions and that women, the guardians of social peace at this moment in time, are at the center of these processes,” he emphasized. “If we do not heed these warnings, there is the severe possibility of Sudan’s fragmentation, the increase of organized crime and the spread of terrorist networks.”
IPI MENA Policy Analyst Dalya Al Alawi pointed to the key role women have been playing in Sudan as civil society actors through the creation of a range of movements and coalitions designed to peacefully end the war, .i.e. Women Against the War, comprising hundreds of female rights activists to document violations against women, Ceasefire Initiative in Darfur, Youth Citizen Observers Network to monitor and report on the ceasefire, the Sudanese Women in Civic and Political Groups, known as MANSAM, Alharisat, and the South Red Sea Organization where women provide support to IDPs via basic services.
“Sudanese women are leading the humanitarian response to the crisis in their country,” she stated. “However, there is rising concern that Sudanese women, while mobilizing as civil society actors on the ground, are being limited and not receiving the recognition they deserve in the political processes.”
She underlined the marginalization of women in these processes as they continue to organize their mitigation efforts in parallel to political structures and are not fully integrated into the political and decision-making processes. “Sudanese women have expansive grassroot level participation and this needs to be incorporated in order for political processes to address the realities on the ground and earn chances to materialize,” she stressed.
Balghis Badri outlined the initiatives present in Sudan, specifically the Sudanese Civic Democratic forces which brought together 15 other initiatives under one umbrella to address the current conflict. However, she noted that only four of the 15 are led by women and require greater representation. She cited the Civil Conglomeration for Peace and Development and the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), created in 2018 and with a Framework Agreement which reached the apex of its finalization in 2023.
“This FFC has got members from political parties, civil societies, and trade unions, but those who represent them during international meetings are men, very few females are in the top categories,” she noted. She also pointed to the Resistance Committees, created in 2018-2019 with a charter developed in 2022, and a representation of the 18 states of Sudan, but unfortunately with a low representation of women.
She outlined a fifth initiative, the National Mechanism for the Support of the Civil Democratic Transition which started in 2022 and evolved to address the Sudan conflict when it broke out in April 2023. Comprised of 100 members, only 25% are women in terms of membership, “however they have divided their work in terms of having six sub-committees, and the head of three of them are women, so they are active there,” she stated.
“Women representation at regional meetings is very minimal and does not reflect their engagement and activism and that is why they decided to create women-only initiatives,” she stressed.
One of the pioneers who led the gendering peace processes in the 1990s and amplified women’s voices over the various peace processes in Sudan as well as being a mediator of FemWise-Africa, Rabab Baldo noted that women in Sudan faced the April 2023 outbreak of conflict with a technical know-how that has accumulated with their lengthy experience via the CPA, the Darfur Peace Agreement, the Ajuba Process, the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPA), and engagement in various transitional political processes.
“Since Sudan has been in conflict for decades, we have been active throughout – it has been a very long journey, but this has never discouraged us as women to stop or give up our search for peace,” she stressed. “We have the voice, we have the agency and we have a strong coordination mechanism that we have built through the years that made our women movement strong.”
She pointed to the immediate engagement of Sudanese women organizations with high-level evidence-based advocacy with regional actors including the African Union, IGAD, and the League of Arab States (LAS) to alert them of the dangers not only for Sudan, but for neighboring countries, particularly if Sudan deteriorates in providing a conducive environment for terrorism. She underlined that they also engaged in highlighting the issue of conflict-related violence with the AU Human Rights Commissioner for Sudan and with the AU Vice President.
“We came together as Sudani women at the beginning of this month to come up with scenario planning and a roadmap for each of the four scenarios to be ready,” she stated. “We went further and created our own peace table, we started to draft a peace agreement with a very clear vision on how to stop the war, the ceasefire, the transitional security arrangement – which is an area that many think is a man’s job, but we as women also have experience in that field.”
During the open-floor debate session, Wafa Mahmoud Salih emphasized the efforts of women’s grassroots organizations. Referencing the Mothers of Sudan initiative, she noted it was a movement that started as a response to the current conflict and originally initiated in the Blue Nile when women realized that the conflict had spread to their community and households with family members belonging to both conflicting parties.
“Historically the Blue Nile has passed through a prolonged war, and recently a tribal internal conflict, so the people learn the lesson well and committed themselves to stop going through conflict and war and losing their breadwinners, supportive members in the households,” she stated. “So these women came together and decided to lead this movement and advocacy campaign to stop this war. They lead campaigns of house-to-house mobilization to convince their community members to submit and handover their weapons to remain neutral.”