Today, Fatima Ahmed, the director of our sister organization in Sudan, Zenab for Women in Development , stopped by our office. She told us about Zenab's latest work to support women farmers and to ensure peace during Sudan's recent landmark referendum–and we want to share those stories with you.
We talked with her about the referendum in January, which resulted in a decision for South Sudan to become a separate country. The fact that the vote did not trigger a return to armed conflict is thanks in part to the mobilizing efforts of grassroots organizations–like Zenab for Women in Development.
Preparing for a Historic Vote
For months leading up to the referendum, Fatima and her colleagues concentrated on raising public awareness and encouraging a peaceful and effective voting process.
They conducted two three-day training workshops for women leaders in the states of Kassala and Gadaref. They also facilitated 10 voter education workshops in Gadaref that encouraged women to vote. Forty women were trained, with Fatima's help, to become election observers and to monitor the polling, counting, and tabulation processes.
International election observers visited Zenab's office and reported that they were impressed by the women representing Zenab in polling centers across the country.
Zenab's public education work continues as the new nation of South Sudan prepares to declare its independence in July 2011.
Women Farmers Sustaining Communities
Through these tumultuous times, Fatima told us how the programs of Zenab for Women in Development continue to support women farmers and the communities that depend on them. In 2008, MADRE and Zenab for Women in Development partnered to found Sudan's first women farmers union and to empower women farmers to access tools, seeds, credit and training opportunities usually reserved for men.
By supporting women farmers, Zenab helps increase crop production in the rural Gadaref area of Sudan, while conserving natural resources. The women are committed to farming organically and working together to promote an understanding of good nutrition and environmental preservation in their communities. And they use profits from their crops to help secure women's human rights and people-centered development in their communities.
Through Zenab, MADRE supports over 400 women in six communities, bolstering Zenab's work to distribute seeds, help women to pay rent on their farming land, and improve plowing and harvesting techniques.
Fatima passed along good news from the women farmers –the latest harvest was a bumper crop! As a result, women will have a boost in their income, new ways to support their families, and new opportunities to invest in their communities.
What's more, they are approaching a new milestone. In the past few years, with support from MADRE and Zenab, the women farmers have rented land in order to plant their crops. As their crops prosper, they are thinking big and planning to buy a shared plot of land. As Fatima explained, instead of temporary renting, this land will be a secure and permanent place for them to farm.
For the second year running, after women farmers in Wad Daeaf received seeds from Zenab, they turned their harvests into a new and vital source of income. With that money, the women were able to pay for their children to go to school. (picture below)
With the money generated from last season's successful harvests, the women farmers of Gungulesa were able to build a community center. They also paid the rent on their land in full and on time, ensuring the opportunity for their gains to live on in new harvests. (picture below)
Photo Credit: Zenab Women for Development