A New Era for Women in Sudan: A Q&A with Yifat Susskind and Fatima Ahmed
Posted on: Monday, July 25, 2011
Earlier this month, South Sudan became the world’s newest country. To gather information about this historic occasion for MADRE members, and about what it means for women and their communities, MADRE’s Executive Director Yifat Susskind spoke with Fatima Ahmed, Director of our Sudanese partner organization, Zenab for Women in Development.
Yifat: When we last saw each other here in New York City, you were preparing to return to Sudan. Now that South Sudan has become a new country, I’ve been thinking about the work that Zenab for Women in Development has done to bolster women’s participation and peace in the referendum process that created South Sudan.
Fatima: Yes, we were at the forefront of raising public awareness and encouraging a peaceful and effective voting process during the referendum. We knew that it was important to include women’s perspectives. Through the years of war, women were displaced and traumatized, and they struggled to guarantee the survival of their families. We worked to give every woman the chance to have her voice heard and to help decide the future of her community.
We focused on giving women the knowledge of how to participate effectively. In the states of Kassala and Gadaref, we organized two training workshops – three days each – for women leaders in the area. In Gadaref, we also held 10 voter education workshops. In addition, we trained 40 women to monitor the polls and the process of counting votes. All this helped to ensure a peaceful process.
Yifat: What role do you hope for women to play in the coming months?
Fatima: In Sudan and around the world, women are pillars of their communities. They provide for their families, they care for the sick, and they pave the path to peace in times of conflict. In this pivotal time, Sudanese and South Sudanese women must work together to uphold peace on both sides of the border.
In Sudan, north of the new border, we are now drafting a new constitution. Zenab for Women in Development has joined with other Sudanese women’s groups to make sure that our new constitution protects gender equality. To do this, we need to open up the drafting process to include the perspectives of grassroots women, so that women’s human rights are integrated in the new constitution.
We are working together to present a list of recommendations to the constitutional drafters. Included are measures that will allow women to participate more fully in the coming months, such as workshops for women to voice their needs to policy-makers and to demand their human rights.
And of course, we continue to expand our work with the Women Farmers Union, giving them seeds and tools. We are very happy that we were able to recently buy a tractor, with the support of MADRE! Because of this, women will be able to plant faster and raise bigger harvests. Our hope is that together we can build prosperous and peaceful communities, and we work for this every day.