For women the struggle continues-TheStarFeb03

Date: October 20, 2009
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This article may be used to:
– Highlight the unequal location of women in decision making positions in Sudan
– Dispel misconceptions about ex combatants
– The extent to which conflict disproportionately affects women and children
– The extent to which people in conflict have over control of choices
– Plight of women forced to under go circumcision
– Draw attention to the gap between laws/policies and people’s realities
– Extent to which patriarchy accords low status to women
– Draw attention to ignorance as a barrier to enjoying rights
– The likely causes of domestic violence

Trainer’s notes:
The article brings to attention the unequal location of female presentation in decision making positions in the Sudan. Sadly this is not only unique to Sudan but to the rest of the continent, if not the whole world. In Sudan women are often allocated secretarial, clerical and lower management positions and are often not presented in crucial ministries .This lack of female representation makes it difficult for women to control key facets of their lives.

The article also dispels misconceptions about ex -combatants. It talks about the writer trying to imagine the main character ‘sitting on corpses …taking a break from the fighting, being unmoved by the dead and the dying around her’ an image that the writer found ‘incompatible with the one she (character) presents now …that of a normal woman who looks after her children. This portrayal of ex combatants not only dispels misconceptions about them being cold and inhumane but also goes a long way in their integration with their communities.

Furthermore, the article highlights the extent to which conflict disproportionately affects women and children. The main character tells of having to strap her baby to her back when she went to battle because there was no one else to look after the infant, putting her and her baby’s live at even greater risk. Taking the baby to battle undeniably robs both the mother of time to bond not to mention proper care such as feeding.

Moreover, the article raises the challenges of limited choices that people in conflicts are faced with. The mother finds herself faced with a razor blade situation, cutting on both sides, to take the infant to battle with her, increasing its chances of being caught in crossfire or risk leaving it behind to the mercy of soldiers where it faced the painful life as a child soldier or sex slave if captured.

The article also raises awareness to the plight of women forced to undergo circumcision, which is described as being ‘horrific ‘and ‘barbaric’. It should be noted that female circumcision remains a contentious issue with traditionalists arguing that it’s cultural where as those opposed to the practise argue that it is a violation of human rights and dignity even referring to it as genital mutilation.

Attention is drawn to the gap between policies/laws and realities. Though Sudanese women are said to have more rights than any other Arab women in the ‘public arena’, they are often unable to enjoy these rights since these rights are not supposed to interfere with their ‘private lives’. Making it difficult if not impossible for them to fully exercise these rights. A call is therefore needed to review policy and legislation so that it takes into account people’s realities.

Ignorance is also presented as a barrier to enjoying one’s rights. Though the Sudanese constitution makes provision to laws protecting women .The women are often unable to enjoy them because they are not aware of their existence. The article makes mention that traditions and customs overrule these laws which calls for a need to redress this ,possibly by criminalising any traditional customs which are in conflict with the constitution.

The article also brings to the fore the low status accorded to women through patriarchal norms. Women do not have control over key aspects of their lives with the men being given responsibility for everything. They decide where women go; how women live .Women need male guardians when they travel .This essentially men control women’s lives.

Mention is made of the growing numbers of domestic violence and the likely reasons for this- huge age gap between husbands and wives amongst other things. This is because women more often than not do not have a say of their choice of partner, with the men choosing their partners for them.

Training exercises:

Define a child soldier
Strides are being made to protect children in conflict zones .Rwandan army generals are currently on trial in the International Court of Justice for recruiting child soldiers – the first ever in history . If the trail leads in convictions it will mean that not only have the generals been found guilty but will mean that crimes against humanity have been extend to cover a wide range of rights abuses. Ask participants to familiarise themselves with the case.
Read the Domestic Violence Act No 116 of 1998, available on
Ask participants to read and discuss the UN Declaration on all forms of Violence available on:

Other training resources
The rights of women in conflict zones (both civilians and combatants) are often subject to abuse .Invite experts in the fields of gender, human rights peace and security studies to discuss this.

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