Posts

Help Reduce Poverty in Sudan
At the end of June 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would assist Sudan in its democratic transition by committing $356.2 million to aid. The funding comes as a result of Sudan’s successful revolution at the end of 2018. To curb an economic crisis, the former government took steep measures, decreasing fuel and bread subsidies. This ultimately resulted in protests in Khartoum, the capitol. At its core, the protests demanded a higher standard of living for all of Sudan’s people. In April 2019, at the peak of the demonstrations, a coup removed President Omar al-Bashir. A transitional government made up of shared civilian and military councils now aims to promote a pro-democracy movement to eventually hold elections. It also hopes to help reduce poverty in Sudan.

An Ideal Government

Specifically, the civilians want a government that will support a better quality of life for everyone. This would curb the number of people living in poverty, thus reducing poverty in Sudan. A transition to democracy often provides a country representation of the people, increased social rights, economic gain and collaboration. However, failing to prioritize a financial gain can result in a corrupt government followed by a reduced faith in democracy. The transitional government’s commitment to accountability and transparency is of the utmost importance while democracy is forming.

The Poverty Issue

With a transitional government in place for three years, the country is looking to shift its way of thinking to better its citizens’ lives. According to the Minister of Finance, Ibrahim Elbadawi, around 65% of Sudanese lived below the poverty line. On top of that, ever since conflict began growing in 2014, 5.8 million people required humanitarian assistance. With additional funding, these numbers can decrease.

The money granted by USAID will go towards conducting valid elections, building more vital institutions and growing political engagement. This will significantly benefit disadvantaged people like women, children and religious groups. Primarily, USAID works in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and the Darfur region to assist. USAID has a Rapid Response Fund run through the International Organization for Migration on a larger scale. It allocates money for short-term funding to national and international relief agencies.

The Help of USAID

Programs that USAID provides to Sudan fall under the themes of food security, conflict and human rights. A database system through USAID’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network tracks crucial data on food security and potential crises. Then, they are relayed to Sudan and other donors. In conjunction with the database, during the fiscal year of 2016, USAID donated $175.1 million to food security programs through the U.N. World Food Program and UNICEF benefiting Sudan. Aside from the database, USAID works to better human rights in the area. In partnership with U.N. Women and the U.N. Population Fund, USAID advocates for promoting women’s rights and gender-based violence prevention. Additionally, other programs target youth and women groups in Sudan “to reduce vulnerabilities to conflict and build leadership skills to foster peacebuilding. They also improve livelihoods and help create enabling conditions for development.

With more funding from USAID, Sudan’s transitional government can not only strengthen its growing democracy but also help reduce poverty in Sudan. As civilians see the potential of democracy in Sudan, they will invest more faith in the transition and thus receive more.

– Adrianna Tomasello
Photo: USAID

How Women are Pushing for Gender Equality in Sudan
Gender equality in Sudan has experienced wide debate, especially in the last two decades. Many women across the country saw Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office as a victory for women’s rights. For years, women have been protesting to have the right to a fair trial, to play sports, to have freedom of speech and to have a position in politics. Here is more information about how women are pushing for gender equality in Sudan.

Sudan’s First Female Football League

Women in Sudan started branching out into new activities after Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Women across the nation started branching out into new territory: professional sports. Somewhere that women have been thriving is on the football field. Sudan’s first-ever all-women football league began near the end of 2019. Since the league’s arrival, protests across the country have called for more women to involve themselves in sports both professionally and as a hobby. The new Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has vowed to make female participation throughout the country a priority in the government. Many across the nation believe that the numbers and volume of women protesting was one of the reasons for Omar al-Bashir’s removal from office. Allowing women to compete in sports helps break down some of the barriers that have been preventing gender equality in Sudan.

Women’s Rights

Conversations about gender equality in Sudan and women’s rights first made headlines in the early 2000s. Sexual abuse and violence were at the forefront of the demonstrations. The International Criminal Court indicted former President Omar al-Bashir and several of his staff for systematic sexual abuse in Darfur, between 2003 and 2008.

Women all across Sudan became increasingly angry with the government not reacting to alleged sexual abuse crimes that the police force committed as well. One report shows that government security allegedly killed 118 people and raped dozens of female demonstrators. Gender equality in Sudan also brings up arguments over the legal system in the country. Women across Sudan have also been protesting the legal system, which can allow women to face imprisonment for crimes such as wearing trousers or leaving the house without a man who is not their husband. One report shows that up to 40 women are in courts each day because of these laws. It is common for the women to have a trial without a lawyer, go to jail or receive punishment by public lashings.

Sudanese Women in Politics

The Sudanese Women’s Union began in 1952. Since its creation, it has been advocating for women to go to school, combating underage marriages, fighting for the right for equal pay between men and women and obtaining women’s right to vote. The Sudanese Women’s Union is not the only group striving for gender equality in Sudan. Another group called MANSAM, also known as Women of Sudanese Civic and Political Groups, is a large collective of non-government organizations involved in aiding women throughout Sudan. In total, the collective includes eight political women’s groups, 18 civil society organizations and two youth groups. Currently, one of MANSAM’s main goals is for women to represent half of the political officials in Sudan.

Women in Sudan are pushing for gender equality. They have been fighting for gender equality for decades, both in the form of NGOs and grassroots organizing. They are fighting to have an equal say in politics, in the law and even in sports. The changes that the country has made over the last two decades have been drastic and will likely continue as women’s voices grow stronger.

Asha Swann
Photo: Flickr

Internet Blackout in Sudan

Sudan has been rocked by protests after ousting President Omar al-Bashir in April, who was in power for 30 years. Now under the control of the Transitional Military Council, the internet blackout in Sudan has swept the country while peaceful protestors demand a transition to a democratic civilian government, which has turned deadly.

One-hundred people were killed by government militia, the Rapid Support Forces, during a sit-in protest in early June. Seven more were killed and 181 injured in the biggest protest since at a commemoration event for those who died earlier the same month in Khartoum.

Between 2010 and 2018, internet freedom has declined across the globe. China, Iran, Thailand and Tunisia have a history of blocking news outlets and social networking sites during times of conflict. In addition, although it is a democracy, India has the highest number of internet shutdowns than anywhere in the world.

The problem in Sudan, however, mirrors the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, which remained under the rule of Hosni Mubarak for 30 years. Egypt and Sudan faced internet blackouts in an attempt to silence protestors and hide human rights violations. Despite their attempts, both countries have shown ways of overcoming internet oppression.

African journalist, Zeinab Mohammed Salih, told BBC News that most protests in Sudan are held at night in the suburbs, neighboring cities and small streets, but when more people hear about them, the bigger the protests become. Despite the lack of internet freedom, the latest Khartoum protest is proof of the growing opposition.

How to Bypass the Internet Blackout in Sudan

  1. Neighborhood Committees: Neighborhood committees are spread throughout different districts in the state of Khartoum. In the Omdurman district, just northwest of Khartoum city, four committees consist of almost 60 households. Originally, committees planned the routes of protest marches, but now they are working to share information and provide support and safety to those in need. In the Bahri district, they built barricades just days after the sit-in protest, and in Omdurman, 300 people protested as militia soldiers patrolled Khartoum city.
  2. Phone and Landlines Reign Supreme: When the internet is shut down, phone and landlines become the keys to connecting to the outside world. Although protestors have forwarded the information by SMS text over the cellular network instead of the internet, others find that their texts are not always delivered. In order to bypass the internet blackout in Egypt, several international internet service providers offered dial-up access to the internet, which connects users to phone lines.  Although the connection is slow, it works. When Salih, an African journalist, failed to text her articles to a news outlet in London, she tried to reach a landline at a hotel in Khartoum but struggled to get around the barricades protestors had made, forcing her and others to walk. The internet in Sudan is only accessible through telephone lines or fiber optic cables, although the connection is not so reliable. Despite this, men, women, whether they are protestors or not, crowd mobile shops and cyber cafes in Khartoum.
  3. Peer-to-Peer Network: Adam Fisk is the creator of the free open-source censorship circumvention tool Lantern. The program gives anyone’s computer the ability to become a server by sharing its internet connection with those without it. Those in censored regions can choose who they want to add and shift their traffic through, and the tool bypasses any blocks to Google, Facebook and Twitter. In 2013, the Chinese government blocked the program after the number of users rose to more than 10,000, but the program does not provide anonymity. Fisk recommends Tor to remain anonymous, another tool that encrypts traffic and sends it around the world, masking the user’s actual location and making them harder to track.
  4. Innovation for the Future: After the Egyptian Revolution, innovators like Fisk are still trying to create tools to circumvent future government-mandated shutdowns. Bre Pettis is one of them. The goal is to create quick and reliable chats on a local network so users can communicate without internet access in an emergency situation.

According to Haj-Omar, what Sudan needs to achieve freedom and uphold human rights is more attention from the international community, even though the internet blackout makes it easier for the Sudan government to conceal these issues. The internet blackout in Egypt robbed the Egyptian people of freedom, only inspiring more to take to the streets. Sudan can learn and grow from Egypt’s past.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr