In Sudan, SIHA’s work involves Reducing Violence against Women and Girls, Extending hands to the Women and girls in Darfur region, Improving women access to sexual and reproductive health services, Empowering women economically towards realization of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) and Building inclusive women’s movements.
With on-going armed conflicts in several states, the devastating effects on the Sudanese population continue in several regions of the country. The escalation of violence against women in the past 30 years or more in Sudan can largely be attributed to governance system failures and the progressive disintegration of the rule of law, as the Sudanese legal system, consisting of statutory and customary law, has largely failed to introduce effective remedies to address sexual violence. Additionally the Sudanese legal system has been heavily based on militant Islamic interpretations.
Many women suffer discrimination, arbitrary arrests and humiliating punishments lashed out after loose interpretations of the so-called Public Order Articles contained in the 1991 Sudanese Criminal Act, the National Insecurity Act that allows for long detentions before allegations are laid against suspects. Participation in the promotion of human rights is especially fragile for women’s rights organizations due to the constant threats of closure, the ongoing conflict in Nuba and Darfur regions.
The level of criminalization of women by Sudanese legal institutions has seen a significant and worrying rise, with women in public spaces increasingly being perceived as problematic actors – their actions needing to be controlled and disciplined in line with the specific ideology of the ruling institution, which are principally based on militant interpretations of Islam.
Compared to other countries in the Horn, Sudan has had a long and remarkable history of a women’s movement that emerged with the movements against colonialism dating back to the mid-1940s. In 1952, the National Sudanese Women Union was established by a number of urban women living in Sudan’s capital city, which had access to educational institutions.
The Sudanese Women Union was initially established as a women’s organization that dealt with women’s issues, priorities and interests such as women’s education, health and discriminatory practices against women. Later, the union was dominated and fragmented by Sudanese nationalist post-independence political parties. However, despite the fragmentation of the women’s movement in northern Sudan, the Sudanese Women Union had a wide influence during the 1960s in advocating and campaigning for girls’ education, women’s political participation and educating women on their political rights. It was also the union that addressed the harmful traditional practices against women, including FGM.
Being the largest in terms of land among the sub-region countries, Sudan has also become known as a country with complex problems. It is a country that has just emerged out of a long north-south civil conflict only to immediately enter into a new conflict in Darfur. The Sudanese national government has undertaken a solid Islamic ideology and adopted Sharia as the main source of legislation across the country. However, and despite the rights granted to women in the Sudan Interim Constitution adopted by the Sudanese government in 2005, North Sudan still runs under Sharia laws, constituted in the 1993 Sudan Constitution and developed by the Islamic Fundamentalist Party who changed their name in 1989 to the Nationalist Islamic Front after they overtook power through a military coup against the National Congress. The bottom line of Sharia law, as is stated in the 1993 constitution, is to undermine women’s roles as citizens and human beings and limit their participation outside the ruling party ideology. Moreover, oppressive legislation has governed women’s mobility and appearance. The hijab became a mandatory condition for women who wished to be employed in government offices and private companies who are in partnership with government.
Reducing Violence against Women and Girls
Women Street Vendors in Khartoum[/caption]SIHA focuses on addressing the deeply rooted subordination of women, their alienation and marginalization based on an intersection between militant interpretations of religion and patriarchal culture all combined with current conflicts and cultural/ tribal disintegration, and the gradual escalation of sexual violence; SIHA project “Non-aligned spaces” is aimed at increasing the capacity and raising the awareness of youth on issues of gender, religion, race, ethnicity, and peaceful coexistence. These youth members will move on to be mediators and facilitate a dialogue with other youth from their communities.
Extending hands to the Women and girls in Darfur region
SIHA girl’s literacy classes in Darfur[/caption]SIHA was one of the first organizations to work on GBV, protection and response in Darfur. Although the resources we continued to receive until the present times were relatively limited in comparison to other international and some of the national NGOs, SIHA managed to sustain its work and to gain the trust of the local community, while undertaking a unique mandate in terms of focusing on women and girls in an extremely complex situation.
One of our core interventions is supporting displaced women and girls. SIHA firmly believes that education and skills development of women and girls lies at the heart of achieving key human and women’s rights goals, and thus focuses across the region on implementing educational and awareness activities. The Darfur programme is in line with SIHA’s mandate and viewed as an essential step towards improving access to education as well as combating Sexual violence in the area.
Furthermore “Towards Restoring the Human Rights of Women Detainees and Prisoners in Sudan” is a SIHA project, aimed at assisting imprisoned women who are criminalized and detained. Through the help of a network of lawyers who connect with SIHA, through previous projects and activities. SIHA arranges to provide legal aid and help advocate for their injustice cases. Research on the conditions of these women who face imprisonment will be published soon.
Improving women access to sexual and reproductive health services
This project aimed at creating a network for all entities that are actively working on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) and Sexual Gender Based Violence (SGBV) on a regional scale. Bringing all different governmental and civil society institutions together, to communicate and collaborate.
Empowering women economically towards realization of economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR)
This project aimed at empowering women and training them to work in sectors that are dominated by men. A number of women have been selected to undertake training and to provide them with work opportunities upon the end of their training period. This is meant to provide women with more options in the market, rather than the traditional/stereotypical trades that women are expected to be in.
Building inclusive women’s movements
SIHA established Circles of knowledge that are aimed at addressing human rights and gender equality, with tools from within the Islamic religion traditions. In order to effectively build a platform from which to engage in efforts to challenge militant Islam, subsequently creating the space and strategies necessary to challenge exclusion and conflict created as a direct result of the spreading militant Islamic ideology.
SIHA has three member organizations in Djibouti namely:
- Bender Djedid Socioeconomic Association
- MER ROUGE Association des Femme Pour le Développement Economique et Social
- Association Roumane