Zainab Osman voted for the first time in her life in 2011. The rights programme, supported by Sida, is aimed at promoting equality and the empowerment of women in Sudan.
Photo: Abu Baker Muwonge
Strengthening women's rights in South Sudan
Women have an inferior standing financially, legally and politically in Sudanese society. At the same time, gender-related violence is a widespread problem. Figures from the UN show that 90 per cent of women in Northern Sudan have undergone female circumcision and nearly half the women in the south have been subject to gender-related violence. Women in Sudan have the right to vote and participated to a greater extent than ever before in the 2010 elections. A quarter of the positions in the national parliament are reserved for women, but barely 26 per cent were elected in 2010. With regard to women's legal status, there is conflict in the south between human rights and customary laws. Girls are often married off through arranged marriages.
The rights programme is aimed at supporting equality and the empowerment of women in Sudan. This will be achieved by improving women's financial security and rights, reducing gender-related violence and the spread of HIV, and increasing equality and women's participation in democracy. The programme has three strategies: (1) Institutional capacity building and development, (2) influencing public opinion towards political reform, and (3) Documentation, communication and dissemination of information.
The programme is being conducted by UN Women in partnership with Sudanese women's movements within local civil society, political women's associations, research institutions and institutions in the State administration.
Sida is supporting the project with SEK 45, 000, 000 for the period 2009 – 2011.
- Leading up to the general election in 2010, the first free vote in Sudan in decades, 54 per cent of people on the electoral roll were women. In Southern Sudan, women were in the majority among those at political meetings during the electoral campaign and also among the voters. The percentage of female politicians in the ten state parliaments has increased from 22 to 28%, and in Southern Sudan's parliament in Juba, from 19 to 32%.
- The newly elected female parliamentarians receive education, 21 female members of Southern Sudan's parliament have taken part in study visits to their colleagues in Rwanda, and 30 female parliamentarians from Khartoum have visited South Africa's parliament.
- Women's participation in the peace process for the Darfur conflict has increased in various ways. For example, the African Union and the UN's Joint Mediation Support Team have received technical support and advice, and Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) has educated women in peace building and negotiating technique.
- The image of women and female leadership in Southern Sudanese media has become more nuanced through the establishment of the Association of Media Women in Southern Sudan (AMWISS) following the 2010 elections.
- Women's participation in the Referendum on independence for South Sudan in January 2011 received a boost through a voter's course in partnership with 37 civil society organizations.
- UN Women has supported the establishment of South Sudan Women Lawyers Association (SSWLA) which will be a very important local actor in the battle against gender-related violence.
- Over 650 religious and political leaders, members of the legal system, social workers and female leaders in Darfur have been educated in women's human rights according to Islam. 10 radio programmes have been produced and broadcast to an audience of around 1.5 million listeners.