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Sudan female activists seek half of transitional authority

Sudanese women are seen during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum, Sudan [File photo]
Sudanese women are seen during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Khartoum, Sudan [File photo]

Sudanese women leaders affiliated with the forces of Declaration of Freedom and Change, a leading group in the the popular movement, have claimed women’s right t half the seats in every institution of the transitional authority.

Currently difficult negotiations are taking place between the Transitional Military Council and the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces about the details of the transitional phase.

On 11 April, the army removed Omar Al-Bashir after 30 years of rule as a result of ongoing heated widespread protests, which broke in late 2018.

Women’s Protest

Under the name of “Sudan Women for Change”, women leaders have recently launched a protest in front of the army headquarters in Khartoum to highlight women’s will to take part in the institutions of the transitional phase.

These female figures stressed women’s role in the success of the revolution against Al-Bashir and the way they were subjected to the repression of the security services and militias of the former regime during the last four months of protest.

On Sunday, the Military Council declared studying a document on the transitional phase delivered by the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces, emphasising its willingness to respond to them.

On Thursday, these forces revealed that the document includes “an integrated vision of the powers and responsibilities of the transitional institutions.”

The Change Forces explained that the levels of governance would begin by a “transitional sovereignty council”, which is the head of state and the symbol of sovereignty, in addition to a cabinet enjoying supreme executive authority, and a legislative body responsible for the legislative and supervisory role.

READ: 90 killed since start of protests, say Sudan doctors

According to the document, “the Transitional Legislative Council shall consist of 120 to 150 members to be agreed upon by the signatories to the Declaration of Freedom and Change, and the representation of women shall not be less than 40 per cent.”

No bargaining and no manipulation

“Since 1989, the women’s movement has actively participated in the opposition against Al-Bashir’s old regime, despite its repressive nature, has made great sacrifices, and does not consider its just demands as a grant to be offered by anyone,” said the civil society representative of the Alliance for Freedom and Change, Nahed Jabrallah, to Anadolu Agency.

She continued: “The Sudanese women have participated in organising demonstrations, protests, harbouring revolutionaries, sit-ins, and social support. Their role has not only been limited in supporting men but also in leading the daily resistance movement.”

Jabrallah considered that “it is natural to launch a campaign aiming to achieve equal participation for women in the mechanisms of change to bring about real democratic transformations using civil mechanisms that can transform the slogans of the revolution into a real fact. We will not get involved in any compromises, and we will not tolerate any attempt of manipulation in this regard”.

Sudanese protestors gather in front of central military headquarters demanding a civilian transition government, in Khartoum, Sudan on April 14, 2019. [Stringer - Anadolu Agency]

Sudanese protestors gather in front of central military headquarters demanding a civilian transition government, in Khartoum, Sudan on 14 April 2019 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

She stressed that “this message, which is not only designated for the military council but all the forces engaged in the Declaration of Freedom and Change, aims to ensure a genuine democratic transition that guarantees fair participation for women.”

Suspended agreement

The civil society forces, a key faction in the Declaration on Freedom and Change, includes women’s organisations in Darfur (west), the Nuba Mountains in Southern Kordofan (south), eastern, central and northern Sudan, in addition to youth movements in Khartoum.

The parties, implicated in the Declaration on Freedom and Change, have already expressed their commitment to fair representation of women in the next phase. However, the proportion of women’s participation in the coalition’s institutions and delegations, which undergo the task of negotiating with the military council, has been criticised by female leaders.

Unrealised agreement

In December 2018, the forces of change identified a 40 per cent proportion of women’s representation in all the mechanisms and institutions of the transitional authority. However, such a resolution was not “fully concretised” according to Intisar Al-Aqli, a leader in Women Politicians Coalition.

Al-Aqli told Anadolu Agency that “women’s fair and agreed participation in political life is implemented in the different organisations within the decision-making committees for change”.

READ: Sudan opposition urges public to defend Khartoum sit-in

She explained: “The actual participation rates of women in the decision-making process is less than the agreed upon percentage, despite their extensive participation in the resistance committees and demonstrations during the revolution until the  Sudanese people staged the sit-in in front of the army leadership headquarters”.

Al-Aqli confirmed that “the demand for equal political representation between Sudanese women and men is logical and already agreed upon. However, the realisation of the accord depends on current transformations on the ground, on the one hand, and the capabilities of women and their ability to strive for the enforcement of such an agreement, on the other”.

Efficiency standard

According to political analyst Osama Khalil, “the demands of women’s movement are based on the criteria already agreed upon by the forces of change in the selection of all those who occupy positions in transitional government institutions”.

Khalil explained to Anadolu Agency that “there is an agreement between the forces of change and other parties on the choice of competencies in the next stage, whether in the government, parliament or the joint presidential council, centralising personal competence, rather than gender, as an essential criterion”.

Sudan's military removes al-Bashir - Cartoon [Arabi21]

Sudan’s military removes al-Bashir – Cartoon [Arabi21]

He continued: “These agreed-upon standards may contradict with the commitment of the forces of change to allocate 40 per cent to women participation in the government institutions. Thus, women’s competencies in many areas are significantly remarkable and advanced”.

As negotiations between the forces of change and the military junta enter advanced stages, lists of candidates for different levels of the transitional authority are likely to be leaked.

These lists may reveal a commitment to a fair representation of Sudanese women, or open the door to a confrontation between the women’s movement and leaders of the forces of change.

Weak representation since independence

“The considerable broad representation of women in transitional government institutions is based on many factors, primarily their role and their active participation in the revolutionary movement,” said Muhammad Shakila, a professor of political science at Sudanese universities.

Shakila added to Anadolu Agency: “Women should be given their full rights to political participation, and should not be ingested with only a symbolic inactive representation in decision-making institutions, as has happened since the independence of the country in 1956. Otherwise, the change we are talking about will only be a weak slogan.”

Women participated in Al-Bashir’s regime with a minor symbolic representation, in limited ministries of service and social nature, such as education, care, and social security.

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