North Sudan: JAM Reports on Gender Situation and Priorities



1. The conflict in the Sudan has been going on for almost half a century. As a result, most men and women and boys and girls have known little peace or security in their lifetimes. The conflict has affected women and girls differently. The conflict has served to increase the overall burden placed on women in terms of responsibilities in the community, while removing many of the supporting structures she once relied on in carrying out these duties. Women are taking on many new roles in the absence of men in their communities. Scarcity and poverty have characterized the lives of many women due to the insecurity and lack of development brought about by the conflict. The insecurity and displacement that has been a major feature of the conflict has led to the depletion of livestock and destruction of crops upon which majority of women derive their livelihood. The social structures within which women have traditionally operated, and identified with, have been undermined. Conflict has undermined cultural roles and renders women the breadwinners on whom the survival of the family depends.

2. The militarization of Sudanese society has influenced negatively on women. Existing systems operate in, and perpetuate, hierarchical structures of government on military models. Women's ability to operate within these systems, particularly in terms of mobilisation in civil society, has been constrained. This is particularly apparent in terms of women's ability to organise themselves in ways that are not in direct support of the government or movement. As such, freedom of association of women and the development of vibrant civil society structures for women has been limited. Restrictions of women's movements and activities have also been directly constrained by the GoS through legislation, and the limited number of women in decision making in the GoS has made it difficult to effect any changes in this regard. This was also linked to the social pressures on women to support the GoS in the war effort. In one sense, this manifests itself in pressure to reproduce and removes women's own control over her reproductive rights by placing them in the sphere of the public war effort. This will continue to impact women in the post conflict phase, as the pressure to rebuild the population will persist.

3. Alongside men, women have also been involved as actors throughout the conflict. Women have played a variety of roles - both as active participants in the conflict, such as combatants and as advocates for peace. Women have not been passive victims in the conflict. Women have worked to provide food and given moral support to soldiers. Some women have themselves joined and fought in the military, though women's roles within the military have not permeated decision-making structures.

4. Attempts by women in civil society to influence the formal peace negotiations have so far not been encouraging. Women have outlined their priorities and presented their views through documentation, statements and delegations to the peace talks in Naivasha, Kenya. The women's inputs have been clear and direct, stating their priorities and requirements for a lasting peace. These include power sharing, distribution of wealth, addressing discrimination, violence against women, women's participation in decision-making, human rights, land distribution, policy and legal reform, among other aspects of the post-conflict framework. These issues are reflected in statements from women in the north. What has proved the ultimate challenge was ensuring that these perspectives are seriously considered and integrated into the peace framework. Another concern that women have raised is the lack of awareness of what the agreement will entail, and what it will ultimately mean for the men and women of the Sudan. Women's involvement in raising this awareness in post-conflict Sudan will be of critical importance.

5. Women's involvement in grassroots peace initiatives provides a positive example of women's roles in effecting social change. Women were instrumental in the success of the Wunlit peace process, which brought about an agreement between the Dinka and Nuer to cease fighting. The evolution of this grassroots method of peace building has developed into people to people processes throughout the affected areas. Women continue to play a vital role in these processes and must be supported as the country moves into its most critical period for peace and stability.

6. This report represents the gender inequalities where data is available as well as proposed priorities for intervention to bridge the gender gaps. It is an outcome of consultations between the JAM gender expert for the North Sudan, women's organisations in the North and gender experts in the North of Sudan and various cluster teams in the North. For each of the 8 clusters of the JAM, It brings out gender issues and presents the current status and challenges, key priority areas and targets for 2010. The report presents issues a long the 8 clusters of the JAM for easy harmonisation. The clusters are: Capacity building and institutional development; Governance and rule of law; Economic policy and management; productive sector; infrastructure; Basic Social services; Livelihoods and social protection and; statistical information system.

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