#16DAYSOFACTIVISM – Awadeya Mahmood Coco
- Introduce yourself (Name, organization, and how long you have been involved in activism)
- Awadeya Mahmoud Coco.
- Cooperative Union for Women in Khartoum State.
- I registered a small association for food and tea sellers in 1991. In 2007, I became the General Secretary of the association. I have also been president of the Women’s Cooperative Union in Khartoum State since 2013.
- Describe the work that you have been doing as a women rights activist/defender in your country;
- Women working in the market were exposed to what we called “kasha”. This means that members of the police took the tools of working women, beat them and tried to prevent them from working in the markets. They said this was because from the point of view of the police the women workers are not organized. I stood in solidarity with my sisters and went to the police station to help. I suggested we form a cooperative association, which would collect financial contributions from women working in the market to buy tools for women whose tools had been confiscated by the police. This was the beginning of my work as a women rights activist.
- Then I asked the Sudanese Society for Development to conduct training courses and education related to the general appearance of the market. I also asked for health education courses, accounting courses, and legal aid so that women could learn their rights.
- Through the USAID, I traveled to some of the other states in Sudan to give lectures on legal awareness, empowerment, and cooperation.
- What do you think are the three most important women’s rights issues in your country and why?
- Legal awareness so that women can know their legal and constitutional status.
- Create partnerships between different women’s organizations to receive the training and receive the required support.
- Representing women in government councils. This is very important for women in order to protect themselves and particularly protect vulnerable groups of women.
- What kind of limitations have you faced in your activism in your country and beyond, within the East and Horn of Africa region?
Because of my effort to change the situation of women, I have been imprisoned for four years. I continued my work and my struggle by opening a shop inside the prison, through which I was able to help poor women.
I was not sad because I was in jail because I found myself serving poor women. Also, when I was inside the prison some trouble occurred with the women, I talked to group of women by phone during a conference for the association. I remember that I asked them to unite together as sisters.
- Do you feel like women rights are being treated as human rights? (If YES or NO, please provide reasons)
Women in Sudan are generally subjected to injustice, various forms of violence, lack of education and insufficient knowledge of their rights as women. Therefore, educating women is essential even in the old age).
- Do you believe that the space for women rights activists/defenders in civil society is shrinking? If yes, why?
Of course not. On the contrary, in the past, there was no work of this size, and it was limited to training for the restricted category. Recently, training sessions related to legal awareness and other training were conducted for all women.
- Do you feel protected in the work that you do? (If YES or NO, please provide reasons)
The feeling of protection grows with awareness and knowledge because when a person becomes armed with consciousness she can confront every person and every side.
- Over the tenure of your activism, do you feel like you have been rewarded or recognized for the work that you do? (If YES or NO, please provide reasons)
My sisters, whom I serve, confess to me that I am a servant, but the great sense of appreciation was when I was honored as the world’s most courageous woman.
- What do you envision is the landscape for women human rights defenders in the region?
My vision of the nature of women’s rights defenders is to continue to support all women. Through their support, we can be part of them in helping others and providing us with support for rehabilitation, training, and money.
- What keeps you motivated to keep doing this work?
What motivates me to continue my work is the presence of people who need me to stand by them for their children and the education of their children, in addition to that I want to help others and this work gives me the opportunity to help.