More on Sudan
Dispatches from the front lines of the women’s movement in Sudan:
• Watch video footage from the Sudanese women arrested at an anti-flogging protest in December. Then read the accompanying story by one of these brave activists.
• Learn about the case of Sudanese journalist Lubna Hussein who was sentenced to flogging in 2009 for wearing pants
• Read female genital mutilation survivor Halima Mohamed Abdel Rahman’s plea to abolish this harmful practice
South Sudan: The Road to Freedom
Anyieth D’Awol is a Southern Sudanese human rights activist, lawyer, and the founder of a women’s empowerment group that enables women to support themselves by making crafts and jewelry. She said that although the recent weeks should be a time of celebration for the people of Southern Sudan, the referendum period has been tinged with the mistreatment of women by southern security forces, which bodes poorly for the future of women’s rights in an independent south. D’Awol said that a key problem with the newly trained police—who may well become the backbone of a new federal force after Southern Sudan declares independence in July—is that there is a lack of clarity in all respects about their role, about how they were trained, what laws they are following, and how complaints can be filed against them for violations they seem to be committing indiscriminately.
D’Awol, who has cropped, neat braids and often wears jeans, says the behavior of the police made her wonder, “Who is the enemy?” and why she should be targeted as an upstanding southern citizen who should be free to dress as she chooses. D’Awol says that southerners will “have to think of ways to make [ourselves] one,” since different identities—based on tribes and on how one participated (or not) in the wars—have fractured the notion of a unified south, even in the years since war has ended.
Despite the challenges ahead as the south forges a collective identity and works to build a new nation-state, there is reason for optimism when one listens to the words of every day Southern Sudanese women when they speak about their independence vote.
“I am now okay,” says Amelia Paul, 47, as she exited a polling station at the University of Juba, her index finger dyed blue to show she had cast her vote; her thumb stained with the ink used to make a thumbprint in a circle on the ballot that indicates a vote for ‘secession.’ “I was tired. We lost all our parents; we are suffering. That is why we will separate.”
Southerners have longed for this moment. And as tallying of the votes from the referendum continues, the writing is on the wall: Southerners turned out in droves and voted overwhelmingly for secession.
As the south looks toward July, when it will declare independence, it is clear that it will take years for democratic and inclusive principles to take root. International support for locally driven initiatives is needed to build on the optimism of the referendum and empower women as future leaders of their country.