Located in North Africa, Sudan has a population of 47.5 million people. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the country’s current president, came into power in 1989 and was first elected president in 1996. The country endured many years of conflict between its northern and southern regions before a vote in July 2011 split the country in two. Many of the issues between the two areas stemmed from a conflict over religion, the mainly Christian and Animist south disagreeing with being ruled by the Muslim north.
The population which was perhaps the most severely affected by the war was Sudanese women. USAID reported that Sudanese women were disproportionately impacted by the conflict, which took a negative toll on a myriad of factors, including their health, safety and economic opportunities.
Despite how severely they were affected, women had a large role in the reconciliation between communities and the overall peacebuilding in the country. This is why USAID worked to gain additional support for the problems Sudanese women face.
Many organizations, like USAID and the U.N. Fund for Gender Equality (FGE), work to provide programs for understanding women’s empowerment in Sudan, among other places. Their work aims to prevent women from being so harshly impacted by the political climate in Sudan. However, the conflict still caused a plethora of Sudanese women to become refugees or internally displaced.
Additionally, the war has forced many of the women to become the heads of their households. It is estimated that the women that were widowed by the war became the heads of 60 percent of households in Sudan.
However, Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP), formed in the 1990s, has brought many women in Sudan together. Some of the group’s goals include providing women with conflict resolution training and advocating for the inclusion of women from all different backgrounds. The group’s overall aim centers around improving women’s empowerment in Sudan.
Though the group faces many obstacles, such as a lack of funding, international recognition and mobility due to the war, it remains active. SuWEP still works to raise awareness and share information. Some of the group’s partner organizations organized and implemented activities, which SuWEP currently runs. The work done by SuWEP to improve the lives of women affected by the war demonstrates the importance of improving women’s empowerment in Sudan.
Despite displacement and other negative effects experienced by Sudanese women as a result of the conflict, groups such as SuWEP are working with great effort to remedy these issues. The recent split between the two regions of Sudan presents additional problems for SuWEP but they will continue to work towards ensuring a peaceful transition.
– Haley Rogers