Sunday, February 15, 2015

How I Made And Screened My First Film




I made a documentary about my grandfather, who I never met. His picture hung on the wall of every house we lived in for as long as I remember, and I had heard countless stories about him and the things he said/did from so many different people that it was as if I had known him in person. Being a writer, I wanted to write about him, but there are some stories you cannot tell in English. And so, in early 2013, we decided to make a film instead.
Apparently, filming was not as easy and straight forward as photography. I spent hours online watching YouTube videos that talked about lighting and scenario and sound capture and editing. Ahmed got me a shotgun microphone that connected straight to the camera, but then we realized that the camera didn’t have an inlet for a microphone, so I borrowed one of the hand-held voice recorders from the office and used that instead. Then, I caught hold of everyone and anyone who could help me out: Mohamed Siddig told me how to manage lighting with a floodlight that I could buy from a hardware store, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. Taghreed Sanhouri gave me the number of the guy who filmed her movie, but I couldn’t afford him. Rhea Schmitt adjusted the settings on my camera, lent me a tripod (which I forgot to take from her office), gave me a CD with the Final Cut Pro software to use for editing, taught me how to use it and then offered to let me use her computer to do all the editing later. She also told me there was a project called the Sudan Film Factory based in the German Institute, and that they could help me out. Mustafa Davis patiently answered the torrent of messages I harassed him with and also gave me several tips on shooting low-budget films, and the advice he regularly posted on his wall was immensely helpful. But it wasn’t enough.
My biggest problem was the lighting, and several interviews I took had to be scrapped because no matter how bright the room was, the footage was still grainy and bad. It wasn’t about the camera, it was the lighting. Then I remembered there was that thing called Sudan Film Factory. I had seen a bunch of their films in the European Film Festival the year before and heard they gave workshops. Maybe they could lend me some equipment? It took me a while to find them but I did, and on the last week of December, 2013 I parked my car on McNimir street and marched down to the German Institute where I was told they were based.
It was closed. It was Christmas. The guard told me through gate bars that no one was home, and that this filming thing was managed by some guy named Talal Afifi, who had gone to Egypt for the holidays. When would Mr. Afifi be back? Ma 3arif, 2 or 3 weeks maybe. Well could I have Mr. Afifi’s number so I could call him when he gets back? It’s kind of urgent. No, I don’t have/won’t give you his number, but here’s a GOETHE bookmark with the new year’s calendar instead. Fine, could you at least give him my number when he gets back? He uninterestedly took my business card and I knew that card wasn’t going anywhere.
I waited for a few weeks then contacted GOETHE via email explaining my situation. I was told that the Film Factory project had ended and that the equipment was stored and used only for large projects and they didn’t have the capacity to rent anything out. I resumed my desperate search for help but was more or less giving up. A lot of things were happening and bit by bit the documentary was getting further and further from my mind. No one else remembered it and I almost forgot about it myself. I had started and was struggling with my masters’ research, had just broken off my turbulent engagement, and had to travel to Oman to work for a few weeks in my old ER and apply for my final emergency medicine exams from there. Life in general was not fun. The first half of 2014 was one of the darkest and unproductive times I had gone through. Once, I was told about a bunch of young film makers called Cinema Alshabab and went to attend their screening. It seemed I was the only person in the room over the age of 20, until a tall man with grayish hair came in and was greeted by the organizers with much reverence. He looked familiar, and I remembered I had seen him at the European Film Festival and that he had been in-charge of something or had directed one of the films. I stayed for about an hour then left, unimpressed.
Then, I received an email that the short story I had submitted to a writing competition ages ago, which had also been about my grandfather, had been selected for publishing in a book, and Laila Abuela had chosen it as an Honourable Mention. Also, would I mind reading it at TEDx later that year? I was shocked; I couldn’t believe that the bit of crap I had written and submitted had actually been read by LA and she had actually liked it, AND it was going to be published in an actual book. Apparently, I wasn’t so bad after all. It was like someone had turned on the light in my dark and dusty head. And I suddenly remembered that I was working on a documentary about my grandfather.
The lady at GOETHE had given me the number of a guy who could do the filming, which he did and he was so nice that he didn’t even want to get paid. Then he went and got married so I had to find someone else, which I did and who charged me twice my salary for 2 hours of filming. I was told that the Albarkal Festival was coming up on December 5th and that they wanted to show my film there, but I was far from done and I just couldn’t do it on my own. I went back to asking for help, and sent messages to the Film Factory, Mustafa Davis and the Cinema Shabab kids, but only Mustafa Davis would respond and he could only advise me so much. Thankfully though, Mohd Subahi came back from his very short honeymoon and agreed to do the rest of the filming. He even agreed to go back to Karima and repeat some of the interviews I had done the year before.
Then, I got a phone call from Talal Afifi, who told me he had just seen my messages and asked me to pass by the Film Factory to see what we could do about this film of mine. I wasn’t going to go. What use was it? I had 2 weeks left till the festival and had already found someone to film the rest of the stuff; they couldn’t help me now. I don’t know why I eventually went, but I did, and met the same man I had seen at the screening several months before. We talked about my film and what I had done so far, and he told me that it was the kind of film he would watch once but never again, and that the story is really beautiful but should be told in a more personal manner. I went home that day and felt like everything I had been doing up till that moment was rubbish. I was an amateur. What was I thinking, trying to make an actual film and even wanting to show it to people? And the guy was right: this was something that was just about as interesting and intense as the life cycle of the Cuban Sea Turtle, or the cardboard box industry.
But there was no turning back now, so I wrapped up the filming and looked for the CD Rhea Schmitt gave me and started editing. But then my uncles decided that since this was such an important film, they wanted a professional to do the editing, and I was directed to a young and polite young man who agreed to do the job in such a short time. I went back to the FF a couple of times to work with him, and got on the bus to Alshimaliya on Friday morning to attend the festival. The projectors there kept going off because of the unstable electricity, so I showed it at home on my laptop for the family, who liked it but I hated it, and decided I would have to do the editing all over again myself. My dad was coming in about 6 weeks and I wanted him to attend a proper screening.
I went back to the FF who were preparing for the Sudan Independent Film Festival to try and get whatever help I could, and indeed got to attend a workshop on Sound for Film by the totally awesome Tariq Sulaiman. It was the weirdest workshop I had ever attended, and I initially felt so terribly out of place I doubted I would continue. The educational material was movies and pop music, the group work and exercises was recording sounds for the film ‘Whiplash’, and I finally discovered what all those different microphones were used for. It was exhausting and confusing and crazy and the most fun I had had in ages. And they were nice enough to repeat everything slowly to me and put up with my stupid questions, even though they were all professionals like Amin Bahari and the boys from Tenchologya, Yakhwanna and Ne7na, and I was sorry when it ended.
Long story short, my dad arrived and we set a date for a screening. And of course, all sorts of things happened at the same time: my grandfather got sick with a bedsore that I had thought was healing but was in fact hiding a huge ulcer that got infected and eventually burst. I cried when the doctor said he needed urgent surgery and stayed up for 2 nights with him at the hospital, worried sick and cursing my stupidity and carelessness. Then my dad asked me if we could cancel the screening or if I could manage to do something about it, and I decided to go ahead with it anyway. I took the rest of the week off from work and tried to get my head back into the editing. Then, on Wednesday morning I was woken by a feeling that my hand was on fire. I couldn’t move my fingers; it felt like a burning hot needle was being pushed straight through. The area was red and swollen; and I vaguely remembered it had been hurting for the past few days but I had ignored it. It was an inflammation of the tendon and hurt like hell: I couldn't hold the steering wheel, comb my hair, turn the tap or hold a mouse. But I had no choice: I had to finish the film. I took 3 different painkillers, a muscle relaxant, an antibiotic and hand support and kept working.
I spent the rest of the time at the FF after Talal gave me the keys to the place, and worked from morning to night, leaving as late as 10:30. I asked Ahmed Cool to help with the fine touches and he spent a few hours with me one evening and the next day on the phone explaining everything. On Friday, the day of the screening, I was to be seen at the FF wearing jeans and T-shirt and someone’s sifinja, hunched in front of the monitors, racing against time to try and finish everything before 7 p.m. in time for the screening at 8 p.m. at the Albarkal Club. It was a mess, there was too much and too little, things were disappearing or not working, and I worked continuously without even drinking a glass of water. I finished at 8:15 pm, and was horrified when the computer informed me that it was going to take 47 minutes to render. I rushed all over the place looking for the wires for the projector that I was borrowing/stealing and tried not to break down when my dad told me people were leaving already because I was so late.
Anyway, I finally got there, and hooked everything up and the film started. I watched in horror as transitions froze, some names were forgotten, the sound was messed up and several other editing mistakes. But I also looked closely at the faces of the audience, and heard them laugh at all the funny parts and were sad and cried when the ending showed my grandfather’s grave. And the best part was when, at the end of the event, my dad came over and hugged me and kissed my head, and said:
‘I am so, so, so proud of you.’

And that was what made it all worth it.

الله يرحمك يا محجوب ود عاشة

Friday, February 6, 2015

Dear ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban and whoever shot up Charlie Hebdo

You do not represent me. Not only that, but I am just SICK of ya’ll. I can’t remember the last time I watched the news or scrolled down my Facebook page and didn’t see something about someone/some place you blew up or people you beheaded/stoned/shot or kidnapped/took hostage. And going hand-in-hand with that is news of Muslims getting targeted and harassed, racially profiled security measures tightened making traveling and employment even more difficult than it already is, and Islamophobes and war mongerers getting richer and happier and more popular, because whenever you do something stupid, we’re the ones who pay for it.
And for what? What are you trying to prove? Who are you trying to avenge? Because it sure isn’t me or any one of the 1.6 billion Muslims whose lives aren’t getting any easier, thanks to you. Neither is it any one of the people who actually need saving: in Syria, Myanmar, Palestine or Afghanistan. Heck, we could use some saving right here in Sudan. Almost every person you’ve killed has been Muslim, except for a handful of journalists, aid workers and politicians. You target schools and market places and malls. You shoot down some random pilot and BURN HIM ALIVE. And you go and shoot a bunch of racist xenophobic French cartoonists and journalists, knowing exactly how much worse our lives are going to get, while they rise up stronger and even more obnoxious than before.
But while I condemn your criminal and idiotic actions, I refuse to apologize for what you’re doing, because I refuse that you’re doing it in my name. I don’t care who convinced you that it’s the way to get a message across or to avenge my Islam, ‘cause they were wrong and so are you. Islam does not need your vengeance, nor does it need the bad press you insist on giving it. Your shooting a cartoonist will not avenge the Prophet (PBUH), because even in his life he didn’t take revenge on those who wronged and harmed him; he was bigger than that. Nor is killing and looting your way through entire countries to spread your ‘Islamic State’ following any true examples either; a simple lesson in Islam’s rules and ethics in warfare would show you that. And don’t even get me started on women’s rights and education; we've been singing that song for decades but you always find some moronic way to shoot it right back down again.
However, to the ‘victim states’ of the West calling their freedom-loving brothers to arms to take down ‘radical Islam’, let me make one thing clear: there is no such thing as a separation of faith from religion in Islam: faith IS religion, and neither one can exist without the other. This call for integration and responsibility is an oversimplification and a kick below the belt, and while non-observing Muslims may be celebrated by you as the ‘good Muslims’, they don’t represent me either. I will not take off my hijab and abandon my mosque just to make you feel comfortable, nor will I continue to be the first one to condemn every misguided, gun-slinging nutcase who needs an excuse to take a life. My religion always has been and always will be a religion of justice, peace and equality, whether you believe it or not.
I will not be shoved into the same hole as murderers and thieves like you, just because you claim that we both worship the same God, and God knows you have no religion or faith to speak of. I just wish you would find some other banner to fight your bloody war under. And I can't wait for the Day when we and every man, woman and child you have wronged will get this justice you so adamantly claim you deliver.

مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُم بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْأَرْضِ لَمُسْرِفُونَ 5:32

"On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land." (5:32) 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Women In Sudan: where we were and where we are now

Published in ElleAfrique Magazine

Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
Women of Sudan
Women of Sudan
So why is it that Sudanese women, after rising so high and achieving so much, have fallen so low in the last couple of decades? The popular answer to that and any other question addressing the decline of the country is that it’s all the government’s fault. The ruling party came into power after a military coup in 1989 with the promise of change, at a time when change was needed most. Indeed, it did bring change: the discovery of oil in its era brought in enough money to boost the country from a low income country to a low-middle income country, and for a while it seemed things were going quite well. But of course, they weren’t; 26 years later we are half the country we used to be having lost the South, at war with almost everyone, mired in $36 billion in external debt, with civil unrest in all regions of the country and the biggest brain-drain the world has seen in centuries. But the problem is multi-faceted: yes, the government directly targets women through laws such as Article 152, but that’s not the only problem. The POP and its set of articles came into existence along with the current Islamic ruling regime, as a special branch of the police force intended to control and curb the masses’ sinful activities such as indecent clothing, drinking, inappropriate mixing, adultery and other such bad things, but the claim that they are merely a tool of the government to implement Islamic regulations is one to be debated, as are the majority of rulings in this and similar regard. In the matter of indecent conduct between men and women, Islam’s teachings are simple and straight-forward: avert the gaze and dress modestly. It does not order that women be rounded up and arrested, or that they should have the daylights beaten out of them. And, more importantly, Islam teaches that BOTH genders avert their gaze from the opposite, and BOTH to dress appropriately when mingling; not just for women to cover up. Islam also teaches the importance of education of both women and men; contrary to what radical psychotics like Boko Haram and others would like you to believe. The Prophet Mohamed never raised his hand or voice against a woman, child or servant in his life, nor did he teach so. Therefore, the seemingly selective violence against women the government preaches and practices in Sudan is not to be confused with Islamic teaching. Let me say that again: violence against women is not to be confused with Islamic teaching.
The other problem related to the disadvantage of women in Sudanese society today is rather indirectly influenced by the government. Sudan was not always a supporter of women’s rights to work and education, even though in many parts of the country, especially the west, women are the main supporters of the (immediate and extended) family and play an important role in food security. They farm and sow the family plots and sometimes work in others’ to earn more money. They store different seeds and products to assure the continuity of food supply throughout the year. They build the houses and herd the animals, and in nomadic societies they carry their homes and belongings on their heads and backs when moving from one place to another. All this while bearing and raising children, cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of elderly relatives. And yet, they are excluded from important decision making such as peace building efforts, are subjected to human rights violations such as FGM, and denied their basic right to education. Different cultures have different excuses: either because boys are preferred over girls in education, or the practice of early marriage, or because the outside world isn’t safe, or because the family simply cannot afford it. The role of the government in worsening this condition in two-fold: through deliberately ignoring and sometimes perpetuating the injustice towards girls and women, and through deepening poverty, racial segregation and feeding ignorance with ignorance, which in turn has led the society back to its comfortable starting point in history. The cycle of poverty-poor education-lack of human capital-deepening poverty of which women are the biggest victim is one that has led us to where we stand today: where women are objectified and regarded as an irritating Jezebel to be tied down, silenced and put back in her place. Despite so much being accomplished, just as much has managed to unfold. So yes, the government plays a major role in the situation of women today; but so does the society itself.
However, history and common sense tell us that change does not happen overnight, nor over-century. It would be pessimistic and ungrateful to consider the victories of women in Sudan over the years as non-existent and futile. Because of their struggles against the odds, we are able to be what we are today: doctors, poets, teachers, novelists, engineers, fashion designers, politicians and activists. The list of Sudanese women leaders is endless, and for each name that is known and recognized, there are thousands of others who are leaders in their homes and their societies. But as far as we have come, we cannot forget or ignore those who have been left behind: the 46% who cannot even read or write, those who have no voice and who cannot defend themselves against the injustice of the system and the society. Women in Sudan have come a long way. But the way ahead is still as long as can be.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.9CJtAHB3.dpuf
Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
Women of Sudan
Women of Sudan
So why is it that Sudanese women, after rising so high and achieving so much, have fallen so low in the last couple of decades? The popular answer to that and any other question addressing the decline of the country is that it’s all the government’s fault. The ruling party came into power after a military coup in 1989 with the promise of change, at a time when change was needed most. Indeed, it did bring change: the discovery of oil in its era brought in enough money to boost the country from a low income country to a low-middle income country, and for a while it seemed things were going quite well. But of course, they weren’t; 26 years later we are half the country we used to be having lost the South, at war with almost everyone, mired in $36 billion in external debt, with civil unrest in all regions of the country and the biggest brain-drain the world has seen in centuries. But the problem is multi-faceted: yes, the government directly targets women through laws such as Article 152, but that’s not the only problem. The POP and its set of articles came into existence along with the current Islamic ruling regime, as a special branch of the police force intended to control and curb the masses’ sinful activities such as indecent clothing, drinking, inappropriate mixing, adultery and other such bad things, but the claim that they are merely a tool of the government to implement Islamic regulations is one to be debated, as are the majority of rulings in this and similar regard. In the matter of indecent conduct between men and women, Islam’s teachings are simple and straight-forward: avert the gaze and dress modestly. It does not order that women be rounded up and arrested, or that they should have the daylights beaten out of them. And, more importantly, Islam teaches that BOTH genders avert their gaze from the opposite, and BOTH to dress appropriately when mingling; not just for women to cover up. Islam also teaches the importance of education of both women and men; contrary to what radical psychotics like Boko Haram and others would like you to believe. The Prophet Mohamed never raised his hand or voice against a woman, child or servant in his life, nor did he teach so. Therefore, the seemingly selective violence against women the government preaches and practices in Sudan is not to be confused with Islamic teaching. Let me say that again: violence against women is not to be confused with Islamic teaching.
The other problem related to the disadvantage of women in Sudanese society today is rather indirectly influenced by the government. Sudan was not always a supporter of women’s rights to work and education, even though in many parts of the country, especially the west, women are the main supporters of the (immediate and extended) family and play an important role in food security. They farm and sow the family plots and sometimes work in others’ to earn more money. They store different seeds and products to assure the continuity of food supply throughout the year. They build the houses and herd the animals, and in nomadic societies they carry their homes and belongings on their heads and backs when moving from one place to another. All this while bearing and raising children, cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of elderly relatives. And yet, they are excluded from important decision making such as peace building efforts, are subjected to human rights violations such as FGM, and denied their basic right to education. Different cultures have different excuses: either because boys are preferred over girls in education, or the practice of early marriage, or because the outside world isn’t safe, or because the family simply cannot afford it. The role of the government in worsening this condition in two-fold: through deliberately ignoring and sometimes perpetuating the injustice towards girls and women, and through deepening poverty, racial segregation and feeding ignorance with ignorance, which in turn has led the society back to its comfortable starting point in history. The cycle of poverty-poor education-lack of human capital-deepening poverty of which women are the biggest victim is one that has led us to where we stand today: where women are objectified and regarded as an irritating Jezebel to be tied down, silenced and put back in her place. Despite so much being accomplished, just as much has managed to unfold. So yes, the government plays a major role in the situation of women today; but so does the society itself.
However, history and common sense tell us that change does not happen overnight, nor over-century. It would be pessimistic and ungrateful to consider the victories of women in Sudan over the years as non-existent and futile. Because of their struggles against the odds, we are able to be what we are today: doctors, poets, teachers, novelists, engineers, fashion designers, politicians and activists. The list of Sudanese women leaders is endless, and for each name that is known and recognized, there are thousands of others who are leaders in their homes and their societies. But as far as we have come, we cannot forget or ignore those who have been left behind: the 46% who cannot even read or write, those who have no voice and who cannot defend themselves against the injustice of the system and the society. Women in Sudan have come a long way. But the way ahead is still as long as can be.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.mb5YkraU.dpuf
Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.3VDnBJdE.dpuf


Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.

But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.  

So why is it that Sudanese women, after rising so high and achieving so much, have fallen so low in the last couple of decades? The popular answer to that and any other question addressing the decline of the country is that it’s all the government’s fault. The ruling party came into power after a military coup in 1989 with the promise of change, at a time when change was needed most. Indeed, it did bring change: the discovery of oil in its era brought in enough money to boost the country from a low income country to a low-middle income country, and for a while it seemed things were going quite well. But of course, they weren’t; 26 years later we are half the country we used to be having lost the South, at war with almost everyone, mired in $36 billion in external debt, with civil unrest in all regions of the country and the biggest brain-drain the world has seen in centuries. But the problem is multi-faceted: yes, the government directly targets women through laws such as Article 152, but that’s not the only problem. The POP and its set of articles came into existence along with the current Islamic ruling regime, as a special branch of the police force intended to control and curb the masses’ sinful activities such as indecent clothing, drinking, inappropriate mixing, adultery and other such bad things, but the claim that they are merely a tool of the government to implement Islamic regulations is one to be debated, as are the majority of rulings in this and similar regard. In the matter of indecent conduct between men and women, Islam’s teachings are simple and straight-forward: avert the gaze and dress modestly. It does not order that women be rounded up and arrested, or that they should have the daylights beaten out of them. And, more importantly, Islam teaches that BOTH genders avert their gaze from the opposite, and BOTH to dress appropriately when mingling; not just for women to cover up. Islam also teaches the importance of education of both women and men; contrary to what radical psychotics like Boko Haram and others would like you to believe The Prophet Mohamed never raised his hand or voice against a woman, child or servant in his life, nor did he teach so. Therefore, the seemingly selective violence against women the government preaches and practices in Sudan is not to be confused with Islamic teaching. Let me say that again: violence against women is not to be confused with Islamic teaching. 

The other problem related to the disadvantage of women in Sudanese society today is rather indirectly influenced by the government. Sudan was not always a supporter of women’s rights to work and education, even though in many parts of the country, especially the west, women are the main supporters of the (immediate and extended) family and play an important role in food security. They farm and sow the family plots and sometimes work in others’ to earn more money. They store different seeds and products to assure the continuity of food supply throughout the year. They build the houses and herd the animals, and in nomadic societies they carry their homes and belongings on their heads and backs when moving from one place to another. All this while bearing and raising children, cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of elderly relatives. And yet, they are excluded from important decision making such as peace building efforts, are subjected to human rights violations such as FGM, and denied their basic right to education. Different cultures have different excuses: either because boys are preferred over girls in education, or the practice of early marriage, or because the outside world isn’t safe, or because the family simply cannot afford it. The role of the government in worsening this condition is two-fold: through deliberately ignoring and sometimes perpetuating the injustice towards girls and women, and through deepening poverty, racial segregation and feeding ignorance with ignorance, which in turn has led the society back to its comfortable starting point in history. The cycle of poverty-poor education-lack of human capital-deepening poverty of which women are the biggest victim is one that has led us to where we stand today: where women are objectified and regarded as an irritating Jezebel to be tied down, silenced and put back in her place. Despite so much being accomplished, just as much has managed to unfold. So yes, the government plays a major role in the situation of women today; but so does the society itself.

However, history and common sense tell us that change does not happen overnight, nor over-century. It would be pessimistic and ungrateful to consider the victories of women in Sudan over the years as non-existent and futile. Because of their struggles against the odds, we are able to be what we are today: doctors, poets, teachers, novelists, engineers, fashion designers, politicians and activists. The list of Sudanese women leaders is endless, and for each name that is known and recognized, there are thousands of others who are leaders in their homes and their societies.  But as far as we have come, we cannot forget or ignore those who have been left behind: the 46% who cannot even read or write, those who have no voice and who cannot defend themselves against the injustice of the system and the society. Women in Sudan have come a long way. But the way ahead is still as long as can be.


Read more about women in the history of Sudan here.
The summary report of the Sudan Household Health survey is available here.


Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
Women of Sudan
Women of Sudan
So why is it that Sudanese women, after rising so high and achieving so much, have fallen so low in the last couple of decades? The popular answer to that and any other question addressing the decline of the country is that it’s all the government’s fault. The ruling party came into power after a military coup in 1989 with the promise of change, at a time when change was needed most. Indeed, it did bring change: the discovery of oil in its era brought in enough money to boost the country from a low income country to a low-middle income country, and for a while it seemed things were going quite well. But of course, they weren’t; 26 years later we are half the country we used to be having lost the South, at war with almost everyone, mired in $36 billion in external debt, with civil unrest in all regions of the country and the biggest brain-drain the world has seen in centuries. But the problem is multi-faceted: yes, the government directly targets women through laws such as Article 152, but that’s not the only problem. The POP and its set of articles came into existence along with the current Islamic ruling regime, as a special branch of the police force intended to control and curb the masses’ sinful activities such as indecent clothing, drinking, inappropriate mixing, adultery and other such bad things, but the claim that they are merely a tool of the government to implement Islamic regulations is one to be debated, as are the majority of rulings in this and similar regard. In the matter of indecent conduct between men and women, Islam’s teachings are simple and straight-forward: avert the gaze and dress modestly. It does not order that women be rounded up and arrested, or that they should have the daylights beaten out of them. And, more importantly, Islam teaches that BOTH genders avert their gaze from the opposite, and BOTH to dress appropriately when mingling; not just for women to cover up. Islam also teaches the importance of education of both women and men; contrary to what radical psychotics like Boko Haram and others would like you to believe. The Prophet Mohamed never raised his hand or voice against a woman, child or servant in his life, nor did he teach so. Therefore, the seemingly selective violence against women the government preaches and practices in Sudan is not to be confused with Islamic teaching. Let me say that again: violence against women is not to be confused with Islamic teaching.
The other problem related to the disadvantage of women in Sudanese society today is rather indirectly influenced by the government. Sudan was not always a supporter of women’s rights to work and education, even though in many parts of the country, especially the west, women are the main supporters of the (immediate and extended) family and play an important role in food security. They farm and sow the family plots and sometimes work in others’ to earn more money. They store different seeds and products to assure the continuity of food supply throughout the year. They build the houses and herd the animals, and in nomadic societies they carry their homes and belongings on their heads and backs when moving from one place to another. All this while bearing and raising children, cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of elderly relatives. And yet, they are excluded from important decision making such as peace building efforts, are subjected to human rights violations such as FGM, and denied their basic right to education. Different cultures have different excuses: either because boys are preferred over girls in education, or the practice of early marriage, or because the outside world isn’t safe, or because the family simply cannot afford it. The role of the government in worsening this condition in two-fold: through deliberately ignoring and sometimes perpetuating the injustice towards girls and women, and through deepening poverty, racial segregation and feeding ignorance with ignorance, which in turn has led the society back to its comfortable starting point in history. The cycle of poverty-poor education-lack of human capital-deepening poverty of which women are the biggest victim is one that has led us to where we stand today: where women are objectified and regarded as an irritating Jezebel to be tied down, silenced and put back in her place. Despite so much being accomplished, just as much has managed to unfold. So yes, the government plays a major role in the situation of women today; but so does the society itself.
However, history and common sense tell us that change does not happen overnight, nor over-century. It would be pessimistic and ungrateful to consider the victories of women in Sudan over the years as non-existent and futile. Because of their struggles against the odds, we are able to be what we are today: doctors, poets, teachers, novelists, engineers, fashion designers, politicians and activists. The list of Sudanese women leaders is endless, and for each name that is known and recognized, there are thousands of others who are leaders in their homes and their societies. But as far as we have come, we cannot forget or ignore those who have been left behind: the 46% who cannot even read or write, those who have no voice and who cannot defend themselves against the injustice of the system and the society. Women in Sudan have come a long way. But the way ahead is still as long as can be.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.9CJtAHB3.dpuf
Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
Women of Sudan
Women of Sudan
So why is it that Sudanese women, after rising so high and achieving so much, have fallen so low in the last couple of decades? The popular answer to that and any other question addressing the decline of the country is that it’s all the government’s fault. The ruling party came into power after a military coup in 1989 with the promise of change, at a time when change was needed most. Indeed, it did bring change: the discovery of oil in its era brought in enough money to boost the country from a low income country to a low-middle income country, and for a while it seemed things were going quite well. But of course, they weren’t; 26 years later we are half the country we used to be having lost the South, at war with almost everyone, mired in $36 billion in external debt, with civil unrest in all regions of the country and the biggest brain-drain the world has seen in centuries. But the problem is multi-faceted: yes, the government directly targets women through laws such as Article 152, but that’s not the only problem. The POP and its set of articles came into existence along with the current Islamic ruling regime, as a special branch of the police force intended to control and curb the masses’ sinful activities such as indecent clothing, drinking, inappropriate mixing, adultery and other such bad things, but the claim that they are merely a tool of the government to implement Islamic regulations is one to be debated, as are the majority of rulings in this and similar regard. In the matter of indecent conduct between men and women, Islam’s teachings are simple and straight-forward: avert the gaze and dress modestly. It does not order that women be rounded up and arrested, or that they should have the daylights beaten out of them. And, more importantly, Islam teaches that BOTH genders avert their gaze from the opposite, and BOTH to dress appropriately when mingling; not just for women to cover up. Islam also teaches the importance of education of both women and men; contrary to what radical psychotics like Boko Haram and others would like you to believe. The Prophet Mohamed never raised his hand or voice against a woman, child or servant in his life, nor did he teach so. Therefore, the seemingly selective violence against women the government preaches and practices in Sudan is not to be confused with Islamic teaching. Let me say that again: violence against women is not to be confused with Islamic teaching.
The other problem related to the disadvantage of women in Sudanese society today is rather indirectly influenced by the government. Sudan was not always a supporter of women’s rights to work and education, even though in many parts of the country, especially the west, women are the main supporters of the (immediate and extended) family and play an important role in food security. They farm and sow the family plots and sometimes work in others’ to earn more money. They store different seeds and products to assure the continuity of food supply throughout the year. They build the houses and herd the animals, and in nomadic societies they carry their homes and belongings on their heads and backs when moving from one place to another. All this while bearing and raising children, cooking, cleaning, sewing and taking care of elderly relatives. And yet, they are excluded from important decision making such as peace building efforts, are subjected to human rights violations such as FGM, and denied their basic right to education. Different cultures have different excuses: either because boys are preferred over girls in education, or the practice of early marriage, or because the outside world isn’t safe, or because the family simply cannot afford it. The role of the government in worsening this condition in two-fold: through deliberately ignoring and sometimes perpetuating the injustice towards girls and women, and through deepening poverty, racial segregation and feeding ignorance with ignorance, which in turn has led the society back to its comfortable starting point in history. The cycle of poverty-poor education-lack of human capital-deepening poverty of which women are the biggest victim is one that has led us to where we stand today: where women are objectified and regarded as an irritating Jezebel to be tied down, silenced and put back in her place. Despite so much being accomplished, just as much has managed to unfold. So yes, the government plays a major role in the situation of women today; but so does the society itself.
However, history and common sense tell us that change does not happen overnight, nor over-century. It would be pessimistic and ungrateful to consider the victories of women in Sudan over the years as non-existent and futile. Because of their struggles against the odds, we are able to be what we are today: doctors, poets, teachers, novelists, engineers, fashion designers, politicians and activists. The list of Sudanese women leaders is endless, and for each name that is known and recognized, there are thousands of others who are leaders in their homes and their societies. But as far as we have come, we cannot forget or ignore those who have been left behind: the 46% who cannot even read or write, those who have no voice and who cannot defend themselves against the injustice of the system and the society. Women in Sudan have come a long way. But the way ahead is still as long as can be.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.mb5YkraU.dpuf
Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.3VDnBJdE.dpuf
Sudan has a long history of women in leading positions in the political as well as social arena. Ancient history speaks of queens reigning over kingdoms past, such as Nubia and Kush. Modern history celebrates the likes of Alazza Mohamed Abdallah, the first woman to lead a political rally in its modern sense in the year 1924, and Fatima Ahmed Ibrahim, the first woman to enter Parliament. It celebrates the brave wives and mothers who stood up and fought for women’s rights such as Aziza Mekki Osman, Nafisa Ahmed Elamin, Nafisa Dafaallah, and those who called for and established women’s education such as Nafeesa Awad Elkariem, Nafeesa Almiliek, Suad Abdelrahman and Fatima Talib Ismail, so that women like Drs Khalda Zahir Alsadaty and Zarwi Sarkisian, the nation’s first female doctors, could enter and graduate from the University of Khartoum in 1946. Women against FGM, women for child protection, women for social and food security and women for a better life for the people. Sudan came a long way in an era when no one was going anywhere; and it couldn’t have done this without women.
But things have changed. Women in Sudan are no longer to be envied. Somewhere along the way, they fell back into the old rut of being judged by society, targeted by the government and harassed by anyone and everyone who finds them at a disadvantage. Somewhere along the way, education became no longer a priority: today, 46% of women are illiterate (Sudan Household Health Survey, 2010). Somewhere along the way, women forgot how hard the Sudanese Women’s Movement and others had fought for their rights, so that today almost 50% meekly agree that it is justified to be subjected to domestic violence for any number of stupid reasons such as burning lunch. Every day headlines are dominated by news about women beaten, imprisoned and charged under any number of pretexts. If you Google the term ‘women in Sudan’, the first suggestion to come up is the Wikipedia page about ‘Gender inequality in Sudan’, then news about women protesters detained for demanding the release of female politicians, then page after page of news about Mariam Ibrahim, the Christian woman accused of apostasy and who gave birth to her daughter while shackled in prison awaiting her death sentence – from which she was conveniently rescued by the US and Italy. Other women who have been targeted and harassed by the government, namely by the Public Order Police, or the ‘Fashion Police’ as I call them, were Lubna Ahmed Elhussein and Amira Osman Hamid. Both women were arrested and charged for ‘indecent clothing’ and sentenced to lashing and fines, and both challenged and continue to challenge the dubious Article 152 under which they were arrested. Both women made enough noise to make the headlines, while hundreds of other women have been arrested, charged and beaten over the years in silence.
- See more at: http://elleafrique.com/women-in-sudan#sthash.3VDnBJdE.dpuf