Sudan: Campaign Demands Women Governors

Nahid Bustami shares her protests sign with another woman (file photo).

Khartoum — Women groups in Sudan have launched the campaign No Excuse - We Want Our Full Rights to involve more women in government positions, especially at the level of state governors.

In a press conference held by the campaigners in Khartoum on Wednesday, Nahid Jabrallah, director of the Seema Center for Training and Protection of Women and Child's Rights and co-founder of the No To Women Oppression Initiative, explained that the new campaign is backed by a wide range of civil society organisations, women and youth groups, and women members of political parties.

She called on "everyone to participate in the campaign and determine their position on women's participation in the Sudanese government.

"We adhere to the implementation of the Prime Minister's previous statements regarding the participation of women in politics," she said, and asked him to clarify the reasons for the lack of women nominees for decision-making posts in the country.

Jabrallah called on the members of the FFC to support the candidacy of women for governorships, "because this reflects the true position [of the transitional government] towards issues of freedom, peace and justice. The participation of women is a right based on our 30 year-struggle [during the regime of Al Bashir] rather than a grant or charity."

Activist Nazik Mahmoud as well highlighted the role of women in the December Revolution that led to the ousting of President Omar Al Bashir and the establishment of a civilian majority government last year.

She strongly criticised the statements of Feisal Mohamed Saleh, Minister of Information and spokesperson for the government regarding the appointment of women on governors' posts.

'Practical difficulties'

Earlier this week, Saleh reported that the replacement of the current military governors of the 18 Sudanese states by civilian governors is delayed because of "practical difficulties and the desire to reach a peace agreement [with the rebel groups in the country] first".

The ongoing dialogue with the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) in various parts of the country shows that representation of women at high-level positions constitutes a problem, he said. Although Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok promoted the participation of women in the government, no member of the FFC coalition has nominated a woman for the position of governor.

In addition, some states have major security problems caused by repeated tribal conflict. "This has to be taken into consideration when appointing governors."

The government spokesperson further warned that differences over governors after they have been appointed, may harm the transitional period.

'No right to reject women'

Woman activist Mahmoud described Saleh's statement as "insidious, unclear, and untransparent.

"No one has the right to refuse the participation of women," she said and referred to the rejection of some political forces, native administration leaders, and Sufi groups to nominate women.

'The decline in the gains of women began with the [August 2019] Constitutional Charter in which 40 per cent of the Legislative Council's seats are allocated to women, while women participation at other levels has not been determined.' - Sumaya Ishag

"At least, women could have been consulted. Women's participation in the government is an inherent constitutional right," she stated. "There are enough qualified women candidates for the position of governor who able to compete with men."

Fellow activist Sumaya Ishag pointed to the major role women played in the December uprising, and called for a review of decisions affecting the role of women. "The battle is essential and there is no room for retreating rights."

She expressed her regrets about seeing the FFC, the driving force behind the December Revolution, renouncing their principles on the political participation of women. "The decline in the gains of women began with the [August 2019] Constitutional Charter in which 40 per cent of the Legislative Council's seats are allocated to women, while women participation at other levels has not been determined."

Power-sharing

Since the formation of the civilian-led transitional government on September 6 last year, the FFC coalition of progressive parties and civil society groups have been pushing for the replacement of the military state governors by civilian governors.

In the Juba Declaration of Principles however, signed by Khartoum and rebel leaders in the South Sudanese capital Juba on September 11, it was agreed that the military governors would only be replaced after a comprehensive peace accord has been reached. The rebel groups categorically refused to change this clause.

In the beginning of this month, the two parties agreed on replacing three to four federal ministers and two members of the Sovereign Council in favour of the rebels.

The National Umma Party led by El Sadig El Mahdi commented in a statement on Wednesday that "the appointment of governors does not meet the established criteria and may cause harm to the homeland".

The party called for a new state government law defining the competences and tasks of the state governors before the new governors are selected.

Furthermore, there should be political consensus concerning the appointment of governors in "crisis areas" because of "severe ethnic divisions and the acute marginalisation of communities in these areas".

Legal amendments

In an interview with Radio Dabanga's Kandaka programme to be broadcast today, Jabrallah welcomed the recent amendments related to women's rights to a number of Sudanese laws.

"The amendments fulfil part of the demands of the Sudanese women. The transitional government abolished the Public Order Law, criminalised Female Genital Mutilation, and gave women the right to travel with their children without permission of their husbands," she said.

"There are still deficiencies in the Personal Status Law that require reform, for instance underage marriages," Jabrallah added, and said she hopes the current Personal Status Law will be replaced by a new law "that protects the rights of women and children, and brings them peace and stability within their communities".

Radio Dabanga's editorial independence means that we can continue to provide factual updates about political developments to Sudanese and international actors, educate people about how to avoid outbreaks of infectious diseases, and provide a window to the world for those in all corners of Sudan. Support Radio Dabanga for as little as €2.50, the equivalent of a cup of coffee.

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